Throughout 2022, Mongabay Latam, our Spanish-language bureau, continued its longstanding effort to produce accurate, objective news on the Andes Amazon region. Focused on Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia, we aimed to provide information on the fundamental environmental issues impacting these countries, necessary for making informed decisions.
As a result, the following was achieved:
- Increased awareness of biodiversity conservation among Spanish-speaking audiences
- Key stakeholders and decision-makers used Mongabay news publications
- Collaborated with other media outlets to co-produce stories
- Reached a broad audience via regional and international republications
Most importantly, Mongabay’s coverage led to several unique impacts.
A focus on deforestation and mining
One of the themes explored was extractive industries, focusing on mining and deforestation, which are taking their toll on the Andes Amazon region. For instance, in August 2022, Mongabay Latam revealed that in Peru’s Madre de Dios region alone, there are currently 46,605 artisanal miners dedicated to gold extraction, of which 31,390 are informal, and 9,323 are illegal.
Reporting on deforestation proved a gateway to explore socio-environmental issues driven by different factors in each target country. For example, some strategies promoted by governments to combat deforestation are questioned for their poor results and allegations of human rights violations. Such is the case in Colombia, where we produced an in-depth report about deforestation since the peace agreement. We also investigated the irregularities behind Operation Artemis, the Duque government’s strategy to reduce forest loss.
In Bolivia, we reported on forest fires and reserve invasions, whereas drug trafficking is spurring much of the illegal deforestation across Peru. Stories like that on the native community of Puerto Nuevo exemplify this persistent issue.
To bring greater awareness to unlawful activities, Mongabay Latam produced the special report Fronteras Amenazadas (Threatened Borders), where a journalistic team investigated the situation in Indigenous communities in four of Peru’s border territories. The testimonies collected confirm violence and biodiversity loss are advancing uncontrollably.
Independent journalism drives tangible impacts
Mongabay Latam’s coverage led to several real-world impacts, such as improved transparency and influential action.
Database of sanctions against oil companies in the Amazon
We collaborated with journalists in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to build a database of fines and sanctions against oil companies operating in the Amazon. This included a geospatial analysis to discover overlaps between oil concessions with Indigenous territories and protected areas. The unprecedented reportage combines ten investigations, including regional articles from each country.
The publication generated responses and engagement with key stakeholders, like José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, representative of the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), who spoke publicly about the investigation and shared figures at a conference during the first COP of the Escazú Agreement. Furthermore, Mongabay was invited to present the investigation findings at an event attended by the following:
- UN Special Rapporteur on Toxic Wastes and Human Rights, Marcos Orellana;
- Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights, Soledad García.
Law enforcement takes action
In response to the investigative report “Loreto: drug traffickers, ex-FARC and illegal miners threaten the communities of the Putumayo River in Peru,” the Environmental Police and Specialized Specialized Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of Loreto engaged with Mongabay to request:
- Images taken in the Putumayo River of two of the mining dredges operating;
- Access to sources that could provide details to initiate an investigation in the area.
Mongabay Latam connected the deputy provincial prosecutor of the Specialized Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of Loreto, Bratzon Saboya, with the Yaguas National Park park ranger and the NGO Instituto del Bien Común, allowing him to begin a collaboration with the lower Putumayo communities’ leader. Prosecutor Saboya used our reporting in a report for the prosecutor’s office, seeking to establish a strategy to address the problem in the area.
Marginalized groups also used our reportage to call widespread attention and inspire action. The Indigenous Siona people shared the article and graphic story on their social media, which helped secure a meeting with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the violations of their rights in this case.
Similarly, Mongabay Latam was the only media outlet invited to the V Amazon Summit of COICA to present the findings of “Stained by oil: a history of spills, impunity and abuses in the Amazon of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia” to Indigenous leaders from the nine countries of the Amazon biome, government officials, scientists and environmental organizations.
According to COICA representative José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, the report “…helped us to confront the speeches and actions of governments and oil companies that always say that nothing is happening.”
Interviews with notable regional and international media outlets
Both regional and international media outlets invited Mongabay staff members to give several interviews.
For example, following a report on an oil spill on Peru’s central coast, Mongabay staff writer, Yvette Sierra Praeli, was interviewed on the program Cuestión de Poder on the NTN24 and a special edition of Radio Ambulante’s program, El Hilo, to discuss the coverage. Likewise,editor Antonio José Paz Cardona was also interviewed on Cuestión Ambiental and by IMER Noticias, following a report on expanding invasive species populations in Latin America.
A growing reach and influence
Mongabay Latam’s ability to reach key decision makers is also worth noting. Some of the most recognized national media outlets interviewed Peru’s former Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal to discuss an oil spill in the country. In the interviews, he mentioned an investigation where Mongabay Latam, for the first time, tallied the sum of oil spills in Peru in the last decade. Among his comments, he refers to Mongabay Latam as the “most recognized, prestigious and objective agency on environmental issues.”
Reflective of Mongabay Latam’s growing reputation as a news leader in Latin America, the Washington Post invited program manager María Isabel Torres and managing editor Alexa Vélez to write an op-ed as part of COP27’s media coverage.
In addition, the GIJN recently published the nine best journalistic publications on Indigenous peoples in Latin America in 2022, where the Mongabay Latam special report “Violence and disputes over ancestral lands: a look at Indigenous peoples in Latin America” was one of the featured works.
More impactful journalism to come
Demonstrative of the power of independent journalism’s ability to drive tangible impacts, Mongabay Latam’s reportage improved awareness of fundamental environmental issues in the Andes Amazon region, while also informing action to address their underlying drivers.
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