SEJ Statement on Flatwater Free Press Reporter Yanqi Xu

October 20, 2023 — The Society of Environmental Journalists stands with Flatwater Free Press reporter Yanqi Xu, whose work was dismissed by Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen on the basis of her nationality. In response to Xu’s reporting on high nitrate levels in groundwater on Pillen’s hog farms, the governor said on live radio that he will not read the story because the “author is from Communist China.”

Elected officials have every right to respond to the facts and methods used in reporting, but SEJ believes that such attacks on individual reporters — especially those which may fan the flames of xenophobia, discrimination and racism — are unacceptable.

Xu is an exemplary reporter with a strong track record of important and impactful environmental reporting, which earned her a national journalism award. We believe judging her work based on anything but the facts shows a lack of integrity and accountability. SEJ joins the Flatwater Free Press and the Asian American Journalists Association in supporting her –– and indeed any journalist whose work has been unfairly dismissed through personal attacks on their origins or ethnicity.

Comments like Pillen’s seek to undermine the power of accountability journalism, which is essential to democracy. Environmental investigations like Xu’s are needed now more than ever, and SEJ continues to support those efforts against any attempt to deter journalists from doing this critical work.

Luke Runyon
President, SEJ’s Board of Directors


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