With a little over a month to go before the Commonwealth summit opens in Sri Lanka, the three big media organisations in the 53-nation grouping have joined forces to remind governments that a free and independent media is essential to any plans for post-2015 development.
“From our experience, we know that a free and independent media is essential for the development of an informed citizenry, able to promote and participate fully in governance and democratic processes,” the Commonwealth Journalists Association, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and Commonwealth Press Union-Media Trust told senior government officials from member countries, meeting in London on 16 October 2013. “Without informed and participating citizens, democracy and long-term development in the interests of the whole population cannot flourish.”
The officials met as the quaintly named COW (Committee of the Whole) group and took a first step at fleshing out the theme of this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (or CHOGM), which is ‘Growth with Equity; Inclusive Development’. They also took a stab at outlining possible areas of agreement which they will put to Heads of Government for discussion and inclusion in the summit’s communique.
Elizabeth Smith, chair of the Commonwealth Media Group, an informal umbrella body under which the three media organisations discuss matters of mutual interest, told the officials:
“The media associations of the Commonwealth have long been influential bodies, devoted to raising professional standards and promoting a free media across the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Charter confirms this role, affirming that ‘the Commonwealth is 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.’
“This is a time, however, when standards in a number of Commonwealth countries fall short of such Commonwealth principles. This is why the Commonwealth media associations urge the Committee of the Whole to stress inclusion of the importance of a free media in the CHOGM Communique, and in the Commonwealth post-2015 Development Agenda. From our experience, we know that a free and independent media is essential for the development of an informed citizenry, able to promote and participate fully in governance and democratic processes. Without informed and participating citizens, democracy and long-term development in the interests of the whole population cannot flourish. So, to sum up, we urge the inclusion in the final communiqué of the key role of a free media, and also acknowledgement of this in the Commonwealth post-2015 Development Agenda.”
The media organisations were among a number of representatives from a wide range of sectors in civil society, including from all the regions of the Commonwealth, which made their presentations to the officials.
The Commonwealth summit will be held from 15-17 November in Colombo, Sri Lanka.