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Environment and human rights activism, journalism and 'the new war'


Lester, L, Environment and human rights activism, journalism and 'the new war', Routledge Companion to Media & Human Rights, Routledge, S Waisbord and H Tumber (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 268-276. ISBN 9781138665545 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2017 selection and editorial matter, Howard Tumber and Silvio Waisbord; individual chapters, the contributors

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The chapter emerges from continuing research conducted in Australia, Japan and Malaysia that has included analysis of media texts (news, political and activist websites, corporate and social responsibil­ity statements), direct observation and interviews with journalists, activists, trade officials and corporate executives, all of whom operate across national borders. (1) Its focus is Sarawak, one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. Sarawak's timber industry is one of the world's most controversial, known for unsustainable logging practices and lack of environmental certi­fication, unjust alienation ofland from traditional owners and local communities and the close ties of major companies to politicians and their families (Straumann 2015). Six companies hold tenure over 3.7 million hectares of forests, or 30 per cent of Sarawak's total land area (Markets for Change/JATAN 2016, 11), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that approximately 50 per cent of all wood products from Sarawak could be illegally harvested (Global Witness 2016, 3; UNODC 2013, 95). The stakes are high, and in June 2016, land rights activist Bill Kayong, known for his opposition to 'native customary rights' land grabbing for log­ging and plantations, was shot dead in traffic on his way to work.

The first part of the chapter focuses on the activism that increasingly follows transnational trade of natural resources. It argues that the political attention applied to this trade now often takes the form of revelatory, investigative information, often alleging human rights breaches or unsustainable environmental practices, and carried within and by various forms of media. The second part is concerned with the focus this places on the information suppliers and carriers, at the same time as the roles and practices of activists and journalists become increasingly blurred. Both factors potentially increase the risk of violence against the two groups. Activists carry out transnational investigations to uncover information with international NGOs providing the resources and global networks to support these activities, as traditional boundaries around 'pro­fessional journalism' continue to dissolve. Overall, the chapter asks if and how the dissolution of the distinction between journalism and activism, within the context of transnational flows of trade and information, might contribute to the 'new war'.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:Environmental politics, activism, protest, journalism, NGOs, violence
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Communication and media studies
Research Field:Media studies
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Communication
Objective Field:The media
UTAS Author:Lester, L (Professor Libby Lester)
ID Code:111922
Year Published:2017
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP150103454)
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-10-16
Last Modified:2018-04-12

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