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Time for a change in tackling one of the Commonwealth’s dominant issues .. ?

By WILLIAM HORSLEY, International Director at the Centre for Freedom of the Media How can the Commonwealth confront the repression – and in some cases forceful oppression – of independent and critical journalists in some of its member states? Although Britain keeps a rather modest profile inside the Commonwealth, the Secretary-General’s office is in London and Baroness Scotland has taken over that post this year amid speculation as to whether she can improve the Commonwealth’s reputation in the matter of human rights. In journalism alone, there is plenty of cause for concern. In Sierra Leone, more than 20 journalists have been arrested in what critics see as a systematic government crackdown on dissenting voices. That was just one example raised at a meeting in London of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, attended by representatives of civil society and media organisations. Many who want the Commonwealth to live by its Charter and the so-called Latimer House...

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CJA Conference 2016 London

Lord Black attacks decline in press freedom – not least in the Commonwealth

Lord Guy Black, chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust, has made an outspoken attack on measures being taken to curtail the freedom the press in many parts of the world, including some glaring examples in the Commonwealth.  Speaking at a dinner at the CJA international conference, he said the attacks came in ever-encroaching legal restrictions, and in physical intimidation. “While some Commonwealth countries are shining examples – Jamaica, Canada and New Zealand regularly lie in the top ten countries in the world with the greatest degree of press freedom – others languish year after year near the bottom. For the press in Uganda, Pakistan, Rwanda, Bangladesh and The Gambia, the media is tightly and often punitively controlled,” said Lord Black. Read the full text of Lord Black’s speech here: “As for so many other organisations in our great industry, times for us have been very tough and it is a great deal more difficult than it ever was to...

CJA Conference 2016 London

Rita Payne welcomes the new Secretary-General

“We are particularly pleased to welcome Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC who took up the post as Secretary-General just over a week ago. We are honoured that she has made this journalists conference one of her first ports of call, and hope this signals greater support for professional media organisations which are part of such an important pillar of democracy and good governance as espoused in the Commonwealth Charter. There is no doubting the power of the media. The distinguished British journalist, Simon Jenkins, in a recent article, describes how this has been demonstrated by stories like the Panama Papers, FIFA corruption, Snowden and surveillance. He points out that these and other stories would never have come to light if the powerful had it all their own way. Referring to the exposures in the Panama Papers he writes: ” A cloud of stinking dust rises as another wall in the edifice of unaccountability crashes to the ground. No thanks are due to any government or police...

CJA Conference 2016 London

Full text of address by Baroness Patricia Scotland

“As I take up the responsibilities entrusted to me by the Heads of Government, I want you to know that I am determined to put the Commonwealth back at centre stage as we act collectively to uphold democracy, advance development, and celebrate diversity. In order to do that, Freedom of Expression is an absolutely fundamental prerequisite, and it is one of the articles of our Commonwealth Charter, which states – and I quote: We are committed to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media, and to enhancing democratic traditions and strengthening democratic processes. And as such the Commonwealth accredited organisation for journalists, the Commonwealth Journalists Association holds a special place in the Commonwealth family. For you are the voice of our citizens. Your eyes are their eyes, and your ears are theirs. You see their needs, you tell their news, you understand their hopes and dreams, speak for them and...

CJA Conference 2016 London

Digital era brings your greatest challenge, S-G tell journalists

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland, has told journalists that the demands of the digital age require ever-higher standards in their profession. Opening the Commonwealth Journalists Association international conference in London, just days into her new job, she said the immediacy of the digital age enabled social media users to filter their own news, and interact far more directly at all levels, including with public institutions. “Such accessibility should encourage greater transparency and accountability, and yet trust in public institutions is declining,” said Baroness Scotland. “I know that the accessibility and immediacy of social media can seem to threaten or endanger the future of your profession. And yet quality journalism is more important than ever in ensuring the public is equipped with factual and accurate information.” “We are committed to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and...