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Friday, September 30, 2022

Speak the Truth about the Environment to Power

In his introduction to the 1999 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study on the environmental consequences of the Kosovo conflict, Balkan Task Force chairman Pekka Haavisto reflected that: “Perhaps the most endangered natural resource in times of war is truth”. https://ceobs.org/the-weaponisation-of-environmental-information-in-the-era-of-fake-news/
    In the second opening plenary session of the ongoing 3rd Philippine Environment Summit, veteran journalist Horacio "Howie" G. Severino presented a parallel situation now pervading not only Philippines, but many countries around the world as well.
    Best known for his work with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Probe Team, and the GMA Network in print, television, and online media, Severino explained in his presentation ‘Facts in the Service of the Planet’ that even for environmental issues, the one wields power over truth dictates how society will respond to them.
    "Environmental issues [are] all about inter-connectedness. In our society, the big and powerful still bully the small.”
    He cited how  walking on the streets is a very personal experience.
    ‘The driver has power over the life and death of a pedestrian. It is not about being rich and poor, it is always about being in the position of power. Even in environment, one solution is to speak truth to power.”
    Most recently, this was demonstrated by the Wuhan doctor who discovered the coronavirus but was silenced by those in power.
    "Every disaster movie begins with a scientist being ignored. We are currently under a global disaster going out of control. This was earlier reported by Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang who warned about the .coronavirus but was censored by Chinese authorities. He has been was hailed a hero [because] he spoke truth to power."
    Severino explained how all of us living in an information ecosystem that is very difficult to navigate because so much is false.
    ‘I shared some experiences in how we seek the truth in this kind of environment. We have to promote traditional values, especially the love for the truth because it is being devalued.”
    “The solution to disinformation is media literacy, it’s education, it’s not legislation; it’s not killing people.”
     ‘It’s audiences like these, it’s influencers who are here. If you can motivate them so when they go home and talk to people about these problems then I would consider my coming here a success.’
    While acknowledging how social media has adversely affected media reportage of the truth, Severino likewise admits it’s something media organizations have also used to their advantage.
    “Social media is here and we have to live with it. What needs to be done with social media is make sure the good parts of it continue to exist and then the system has to change so those bad parts can no longer undermine our democracy and support those peddlers of lies.”
    Asked about organizations combating the spread of fake news in the Philippines, he cited the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CFMR), and each media organization has taken up the cudgels in fighting fake news in their own way.
    “In my opinion, the best way to fight fake news is good journalism to maintain the trust of our audiences.” (with a report from the 3rd PH Envi Summit Social Media Group)

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