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WHO Global Conference On Air Pollution Aims To Reduce Air Pollutants

The WHO plans to put in place a tracking system to monitor commitments made by the participants.

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India's Rashtrapati Bhawan, or the Presidential Palace is partly visible due to smog as traffic plies on Rajapth, the ceremonial boulevard in New Delhi. VOA
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Participants at the first ever WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution have adopted a plan for reducing air pollution, which every year prematurely kills an estimated seven million people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the conference a resounding success, noting 900 people attended, twice as many as expected. Furthermore, it says more than 70-member states, non-governmental organizations, and other participants have made voluntary commitments to take action to reduce air pollution.

Director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health and Environment Maria Neira said the WHO is taking a leading role in setting forth action to tackle air pollution for a cleaner, healthier world.

Air Pollution, China, WHO
A man wearing a respiratory protection mask walks toward an office building during the smog after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in Beijing’s central business district, China. VOA

“WHO, as the global health agency, made, as well, very strong commitments, starting by proposing an aspiration target of reducing by two-thirds the mortality caused by air pollution by the year 2030. And, this is really a big challenge that we will mobilize and, we will call for everyone to contribute to that,” she said.

Neira said prompt action is needed to reach that goal. For example, she says people need to stop burning solid waste and agricultural waste. She said they have to move away from fossil fuels. She said people in Africa and other areas with populations in great need must be helped to meet the goal.

Air Quality, WHO
Air pollution can also damage your kidneys. wikimedia commons

“We need to liberate those three billion people that today, they are still relying on fossil fuels at the household level to cook or heat or light their house. We need to make sure that they will have access to clean sources of energy,” said Neira.

Also Read: Massive Benefits Could Be Achieved If Air Pollution Is Controlled In Asia: UN

The WHO plans to put in place a tracking system to monitor commitments made by the participants. The system is intended to gauge the progress being made toward achieving better health for all by freeing the world of air pollution. (VOA)

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Journalists Around The World Faced Intimidation and Prison in 2018: Report

Tuesday, Time magazine selected journalists who have been targeted for doing their work, the “guardians” of truth, as their Person of the Year.

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A man holds a poster showing images of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (L), dubbed "assassin," and of journalist writer Jamal Khashoggi, dubbed "martyr," during a prayer service for Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Turkey. VOA

A multipronged crackdown on the press continued throughout 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists concludes in a report published Thursday.

Imprisonment, intimidation and allegations that journalists produce “fake news” surged in 2016, when U.S. President Donald Trump won the election, CPJ found.

Trump has been a vocal critic of the press, often chastising journalists as “very dishonest people.”

The number of journalists in jail dipped 8 percent, from 272 in 2017 to 251 this year. But that doesn’t mean the situation has improved, Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, told VOA.

The numbers fluctuate and may not reflect every imprisoned journalist. They also remain markedly higher than just a half decade ago.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Oct. 29, 2018. VOA+

More importantly, targeting a single journalist can have far-reaching repercussions.

“The effects are not only, obviously, [on] the journalists themselves and their families and their colleagues, but we really are talking about the effect on citizens as a whole,” Quintal said.

CPJ’s report highlighted several bright spots.

In Ethiopia, which has experienced dramatic reforms under new leader Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, no journalists are currently known to be imprisoned, for the first time in 14 years.

Improvements in some countries, however, don’t necessarily rub off on others.

“Unfortunately, neighboring Eritrea remains the highest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, with 16 journalists in jail as we speak,” Quintal said.

Worldwide, report author Elana Beiser, CPJ’s editorial director, singled out China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as troublespots, highlighting how wide-ranging efforts to silence journalists have become.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Quintal’s region of focus, Cameroon, where seven journalists are in jail, is a new country of concern. At least four of those journalists faced false news charges in what Quintal called “a huge, huge setback.”

Times, Jail
Jamal Khashoggi on the cover of Times as the ‘Person of they Year”

Overall, more than two dozen journalists have been charged with publishing false news, mainly in Africa.

Accusations and imprisonments can propel self-censorship, with profound effects on citizens’ right to information.

“When you see your colleagues being put in jail, when you see them accused of so-called fake news, when they’re being arrested on false news charges,” Quintal said, “it does, obviously, have a chilling effect.”

Quintal herself was targeted, along with colleague Muthoki Mumo, in Tanzania last month.

Despite having an invitation letter from the Media Council of Tanzania, the two, both former journalists, were detained and interrogated.

Quintal, from South Africa, and Mumo, from Kenya, were kept in custody for five hours.

“We were lucky because we were able to leave Tanzania,” Quintal said, contrasting her experience to journalists in the country who have gone missing or continue to face intimidation.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA

“The abusive nature of what happened to us showed the world the true nature of what is going on in Tanzania at the moment,” she added.

Quintal and Mumo’s case was unusual. Governments tend to target their own citizens, and journalists imprisoned by their governments make up 98 percent of cases, CPJ concluded. They also found that 13 percent of journalists in jail are women, an 8 percent increase from 2017.

Despite worrying signs, there is room for optimism, Quintal said.

When new leaders come to power, she said, human rights and press freedoms can improve very quickly.

Also Read: Facebook Rolls Out New Tool that Lets Journalists Examine Political Ads

Quintal pointed to The Gambia as one example, where the new president, Adama Barrow, has created space for journalists to work without fear of reprisal.

Tuesday, Time magazine selected journalists who have been targeted for doing their work, the “guardians” of truth, as their Person of the Year. (VOA)