Activist accuses climate conference organizers of censorship

March 16, 2021 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — A Ugandan activist has accused organizers of a virtual climate conference of trying to censor her speech, in which she criticized world leaders for failing to do enough to curb global warming.

Vanessa Nakate said in her speech Tuesday at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue that organizers had cut her allotted time from five to three-and-a-half minutes, and demanded to see her script ahead of time.

She also claimed that the hosts of the conference, which is supported by the German government and featured speakers including U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, had instructed her and fellow activist Brianna Fruean of Samoa “not to name or shame leaders that would be taking part.”


“You should not ask activists to come and speak at your events so you can feel better and then try to censor them,” Nakate said. “You should not slash the time you have promised them to tell their stories.”

The Ugandan activist accused world leaders of failing young people and ignoring the science behind global warming.

“It is the leaders who time and time again have failed to treat the climate crisis like a crisis,” said Nakate. “This is not naming and shaming. This is telling the truth.”

Organizers said they asked all speakers to send their speeches in advance of delivery, to facilitate interpretation into other languages. In a statement, they said the large number of participants required them to shorted the slots for all speakers.

The organizers didn’t respond to the claim that the activists were told not to name and shame any leaders, but said the event was “an open format in which the speakers and participants can have an exchange that can also be provocative.”

The event’s moderator responded to Nakate’s speech by saying that the activists’ message about the need for climate justice had been made “very, very clear.”

In 2020, Nakate was cropped out of an Associated Press photo at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The AP has apologized and acknowledged mistakes in how it initially responded.