For the first time in its history, the CJA had official representation at the Commonwealth Peoples Forum and CHOGM at the end of November as a result of obtaining accreditation status with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Representing the CJA were: president Hassan Shahriar (Bangladesh), vice-president Chris Cobb (Canada), CJA past-president Murray Burt (Canada), and Rita Payne (London), chair UK branch of the CJA.
The CJA delegates gave presentations at three assemblies: Human Rights, Conflict and Peace Building, and Creativity and Innovation.
Joining the official CJA delegation was Henry Gombya of South Africa with his eloquent assessment of the dearth of press freedom in many African countries.
Other prominent CJA illuminaries who were in Trinidad were: Derek Ingram (UK branch), Kaye Whiteman (UK branch), Cheryl Dorall (UK branch), Patsy Robertson (Trinidad branch) who was instrumental in arranging for inexpensive accommodation for several CJA delegates, and Osman Gani Mansur (Bangladesh branch).
The result of all CJA efforts was a prepared statement representing journalists throughout the Commonwealth. See following:
“We urge Commonwealth leaders to unequivocally condemn, and intercede where practical, the systematic abuse of journalists and explicitly recognize in their communiqué that the news media are a crucial element of the fundamental political principles of the Commonwealth.
Freedom of expression and the right to know are vital to successful democratic governance. A free and independent media assists in upholding assists in upholding those principles but is under siege in so many Commonwealth countries.
Since the last CHOGM, journalists in several countries have been killed while others have been subject to beatings, kidnappings, intimidation of families and closure of their news outlets.
An increasing number of laws are being crafted to deliberately limit access and dissemination of information and curb freedom of expression and the right to know. This is more the norm than the exception. In particular, we point to countries which continue to retain criminal defamation on their books.”
That statement was then inserted into the main Commonwealth People’s Forum Communiqué in a different format.
FROM THE PEOPLE’S FORUM COMMUNIQUE — PEACE AND CONFLICT ASSEMBLY
We call on Commonwealth Member States to:
that since the last CHOGM journalists have been killed in several countries, while others have been subject to beatings, kidnappings and intimidation of families and closure of news outlets;
that free, open and diverse media plays a key role in ensuring the accountability and transparency of governing institutions, in building awareness of development issues, and in helping different people and communities better understand each other; and that the news media are a crucial element of Commonwealth principles;
that freedom of expression and the right to know are vital to democratic governance;
any systematic abuse of journalists; and
any deliberate attempts to limit access to and dissemination of information.
For more on CHOGM and the Commonwealth Peoples Forum, go to www.commonwealthfoundation.com.