The extreme heat that is affecting the Philippines and the rest of the region is a clear warning of the ongoing climate crisis and the urgent need to address it.

Ironically for a country that is considered among the most vulnerable to the effects of the crisis, our environmental rights defenders and environmental journalists also face the most risks. 

Global Witness counted the Philippines as the deadliest country in Asia for land defenders and the journalism community in the Philippines is no stranger to the risks faced by those who advocate for, or report on, the environment.

The alleged mastermind in the killing of environmentalist and broadcaster Doc Gerry Ortega remains at large despite a court issued warrant for his arrest and many of our colleagues covering land and environmental issues do so at the risk of denial of access, harassment, and worse.

Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who helped cover the plight of survivors of Typhoon Yolanda and of farmers in among the poorest regions in the country, has been in detention on trumped-up charges since 2020.

Alternative and community journalists who cover issues like mining, logging and land reclamation are already at risk by covering far from urban centers and are at further risk of being labeled as “anti-development” or of being red tagged outright.

Human rights defender and Northern Dispatch journalist Brandon Lee was shot in front of his house in Ifugao province in 2019. The attack is believed to be related to his work in defense of indigenous land rights.

Brandon as well as Northern Dispatch had been red-tagged prior to the assassination attempt.

Despite his injuries, Brandon continues his work from the US and is a member of NUJP’s North America chapter.

With extreme weather events expected to become more frequent and more destructive, every story is potentially an environmental story and the government and the community must do more to protect journalists who cover climate change as well as the development aggression that contributes to it and further destroys the environment.

On World Press Freedom Day, NUJP lights candles to remember Doc Gerry, to call attention to the plight of environmental and community journalists and to signify solidarity with them.