Guardians of the Amazon: Abraji and FLIP’s Joint Report on Journalism in the Region

Guardians of the Amazon: Abraji and FLIP’s Joint Report on Journalism in the Region

Our partners, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) have joined forces to address the challenges facing journalism in the Amazon, one of the most difficult regions to cover due to its natural density and the intersection of legal and illegal economic interests.

For this report, the two organisations carried out extensive first-person research, identifying the specific challenges of practicing journalism in these contexts and how journalists’ narratives can help protect the Amazon regions, with their biodiversity, numerous indigenous cultures, and unique natural resources.

Considering the Amazon as a single biome can oversimplify its rich diversity of peoples, territories, and challenges. Recognising it involves understanding it beyond a singular entity and appreciating the multiple realities coexisting within it. It’s not the same to talk about the vast Brazilian Amazon in Roraima or Mato Grosso as it is to talk about the Colombian Amazon in Caquetá or Putumayo, for example.

These Amazon regions also share daily tragedies that do not recognise borders. Illicit economies such as drug trafficking, illegal mining, arms trafficking, controlled by illegal groups, threaten the territory’s balance, condemning it to silence through self-censorship, fear, threats or execution of local leaders. Additionally, large extractive companies play a significant role here, along with activities like extensive cattle ranching or the expansion of agribusiness, which jeopardise the symbiotic relationships that have been built over millennia and are devastating the jungle on a scale alarming to humanity.

In this context, Colombia and Brazil also share the sad distinction of being the countries where the most environmental leaders are murdered year after year. The latest available report from Global Witness, published in 2023, indicates that out of 177 murders worldwide in 2022, 60 occurred in Colombia and 34 in Brazil. 36%, equivalent to 64 people, belonged to indigenous communities. Speaking out, acting, and denouncing what happens in the Amazon is a matter of life or death.

This context inevitably shapes journalistic work in the Amazon regions. Covering these issues entails significant risks: facing the presence of multiple armed actors, the imposition of silence, barriers to accessing information, and geographical and economic limitations that restrict coverage in the field and the deep analysis of local problems. The murder of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira in 2022 in Atalaia Do Norte, Amazonas, Brazil, is a grim reminder of the dangers faced by professionals investigating and reporting on the region.

However, information about what happens in the Amazon is fundamental for society as a whole. With less information becoming available, as critical voices continue to be silenced, we all have less capacity to make decisions and demand action from governments and multilateral entities at this decisive moment for the planet’s future. On the other hand, it is essential to observe the demands of those who inhabit these territories regarding the perspectives and narratives that have been established in the public discussion and highlight the need to produce information with pluricultural approaches, which recognise the value of other worldviews.

The report

This report examines the conditions affecting the right to freedom of expression, focusing on journalism and other forms of information production of public interest, especially in the Colombian Amazon region and the western Brazilian Amazon. Aware of the diversity of perspectives, Abraji and FLIP emphasise that it is not their intention to establish a single view on the situation in the Amazon, but to promote a broader dialogue. Although their scope is limited to the areas and voices they have been able to explore, they seek to provide key points on how journalism can contribute to the safeguarding of the Amazon and ensure that citizens receive increasingly complete and accurate information.

Read the full report here  (in Spanish).

This article has been adapted with consent from the original report.

Media Defence

At Media Defence, we actively work to protect environmental reporting by providing financial and substantive legal support, litigating strategic cases and working to combat impunity of crimes against environmental journalists.

Read more about our work or see our resources on the topic.

Our Partners

We provide grants and technical support to organisations, including FLIP and Abraji, around the world to help them provide free, quality legal support directly to journalists in their countries.

Read more about becoming a partner.

If you are a journalist in need of legal support, apply here.

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