By Debbie Ransome, Editor of the CJA Newsletter
Here follows a summary of presentations and panel discussions from the Commonwealth Journalists Association’s rally in Malta (29 January – 1 February 2012). More info here.
Full presentations are available for download below. You can view a pdf of this supplementary newsletter by clicking here.
Monday morning, January 30 – “The smart phone is stronger than the sword”
The inaugural address, delivered by Malta’s Tourism Minister Mario de Marco, looked at the pressure on today’s journalists and launched the conference focusing on the power of the media with its access to different publishing and broadcasting platforms. He outlined the direction for the week’s discussions: “The theme of your conference makes it clear that you are here to develop a vision, though of a different kind of vision. It is not a vision built in stone but a vision built on the best traditions of the journalistic profession and aided by the creative development of electronic technology.”
Panel one: Social Media and other new tools of the trade:
Digital Development Editor, Dr Stephen Quinn, of the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, updated delegates on developments in mobile phone technology with the “real push” coming from technology developed for I-Pads and I-Phones. Malta’s Ambassador to Jordan and Chairman Emeritus of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation Anthony De Bono outlined the need for the Commonwealth to move quickly onto the global information superhighway.
Monday afternoon – New connections
COMNET Chairman Joseph Tabone looked at how inter-connectivity can work for journalists across the Commonwealth. He outlined the possibility of internet censorship which journalists needed to be aware of. He advised that the Commonwealth has a template which regions can consult as countries weave cybercrime security into national legislation.
Panel discussion – there followed a lively discussion about progress and the challenges created by the new technologies and how they affect the work of journalists. Panellists focused on challenges and solutions from Malta, India, Uganda, and the wider Commonwealth. CJA Vice-President Chris Cobb summed up that, while citizen journalism had given people access to the equipment, trusted media sources would still be needed. He predicted that ethically-trained professional journalists would become a premium. People whom he described have the “trust of the listener…and the reader…that trust is gold.” This led to discussion about finding the funding for training to ensure quality journalism.
Tuesday morning, 31st January – Matters of Life and death
Panellists from Pakistan, the UK, Sri Lanka, and Press Freedom group Wan outlined the dangers facing journalists after 9/11, security for people deployed in the Middle East and other areas, and reporting in difficult political environments. BBC World News Editor Jon Williams emphasised the need for training for everyone – staff or freelance – deployed in the field: “when you’re in the grave, no-one makes any distinction.” William Horsley of the Centre for Freedom of the media outlined the growing dangers, including banditry and militias, and the importance of following up on the future training of journalists. There was an extended discussion on upcoming coverage of the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka and the opportunity for Commonwealth journalists to write about the situation in Sri Lanka, to ensure civil society and for CJA action to push for media freedom as part of democratic values for Sri Lanka, and the need for visas for foreign journalists. A presentation was also made by Alison Meston of WAN World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDUZIf0Mj74
Tuesday lunchtime – Canada’s Special Envoy for Commonwealth Renewal Senator Hugh Segal tackled the delayed publication of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) report to CHOGM at Perth 2011 and the need for the Commonwealth to step up to its future choices or else “it will become even more irrelevant than it has in some people’s minds.” He added: “The Commonwealth voice has never mattered more.”
Tuesday afternoon – Panel two – Democratic Deficits
There was discussion about the challenges of covering elections in India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the role Commonwealth journalists can play. Victoria Holdsworth of the Commonwealth Secretariat outlined co-operation between journalists and Commonwealth election observer groups in the field. She told CJA members: “If we cover elections in your country, do get in contact with us.”
Tuesday afternoon – Panel three – Media Law
Raymond Louw from South Africa outlined the implications of South Africa’s secrecy bill and the penalties for journalists for possession of document deemed to be illegal. He described the bill and other developments as an “acceleration of a tendency towards hostility towards the press.” There followed discussion on comments suggesting restrictive legislation on mobile phones after the riots in the UK and the challenges facing journalists in India. Alison Meston from WAN, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, reminded delegates of comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron about possible restrictive legislation on mobile phones and Facebook after the UK riots and the potential danger of such legislative approaches and the challenges facing journalists in South Africa. [http://tinyurl.com/wpfr2011 www.declarationoftablemountain.org] Delegates from India and Bangladesh outlined how journalists can be accused of economic sabotage for writing articles which allegedly damaged an economy.
Wednesday morning – Panel one – Disaster coverage and climate change
Panel discussion – Dr Mizanur Shelley from Bangladesh outlined how media reports and analysis on climate change can educate people in early warning and pre-disaster systems. He told the conference: “Media plays a vital role”. Zaffar Abbas from Pakistan outlined how many journalists did not fully understand the science of climate change with no one looking at the bigger picture and many only dealing with climate change issues when they became breaking stories. Mahendra Ved of CJA India outlined how the media can play a leading role in disaster work and have an impact by reporting on risk issues. There then followed country discussions on disaster and climate change coverage and the role of the media in Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, and Malaysia.
Panel two – the Murdoch fallout and lessons on media ethics
Former UK Solicitor-General Vera Baird outlined the background to the Leveson enquiry and the role the press had played both as part of the phone hacking scandal and as the ones to reveal the scandal and called on the CJA to put in a submission to the Leveson enquiry to ensure awareness of the “deleterious effect” the findings could have on very different press in the Commonwealth. William Horsley of the Centre for Freedom of the Media said that the closure of the News of the World had clearly been a covering up of levels of criminality. He described the phone hacking scandal and the fallout as “a story of grey colours and mud which has stuck everywhere.” However, he also pointed out the role of the NOW and other tabloid papers in bringing “news to the masses” and advised on the need for a free press.
Wednesday lunchtime – CJA President Hassan Shahriar made his farewell speech and spoke about CJA initiatives over the years. He also presented gifts to CJA members.
Wednesday afternoon – Panel three – Sports journalism and scandal
A lively panel discussion based on the history of sports scandals, the national prestige attached to coverage of national competitors, and the challenge for journalists trying to cover fraud and other sports scandals. Panellists looked at the scandals in test cricket, schoolchildren using drugs in India to enhance their all-round performance, spot-fixing and match-fixing, proving corruption in sports, and the growing tendency for former sportsmen and women to be treated as sports journalists. Panellists and delegates also tackled the use of sports accreditation, access to interviewees for journalists and developments such as FIFA investigating itself over corruption allegations.
Wednesday afternoon – Panel four – The Commonwealth – what lies ahead?
Commonwealth Assistant Secretary-General Steve Cutts said that 2012 will be a “vital year” for the Commonwealth and that it needed to be a year of change. Commonwealth Foundation Director Vijay Krishnarayan told delegates that Commonwealth Heads recognised the potential of civil society but whether the Commonwealth makes real
progress over the next two years would depend on the attitude of people at Marlborough House, associated Commonwealth groups and the wider Commonwealth itself. Jayanta Chowdhury proposed a deeper economic trade grouping model for the Commonwealth pointing out that this was not difficult to contemplate given the existing trade flows across the Commonwealth. He suggested a move for Commonwealth countries to give one another trade preference as larger free trade zones were already being forged in parts of the world. In an animated discussion, delegates then discussed the ideas on the challenges facing the Commonwealth in the future.
Thursday morning – CJA General meeting
The following people were elected at the CJA general meeting:
– President: Rita Payne – UK
– Re-elected Vice President : Chris Cobb – Canada
– Vice Presidents: Mahendra Ved – India
– Joshua Kyalimpa – Uganda
– Farid Hossain – Bangladesh
– Honorary Secretary-Treasurer: Murray Burt – Canada
– Syed Nahas Pasha – UK
– Drito Alice – Uganda
– Caroline Jackson – Malaysia
– Newton Sibanda – Zambia
– Fauzia Shaheen – Pakistan
– Jayanta Roy Chowdhury – India
– Shyamal Dutta – Bangladesh
– Will Henley – UK
– President Emeritus: Hassan Shahriar
– President Emeritus: Derek Ingram
Presentations in full:
Malta conference coverage:
Times of Malta: http://www.independent.com.mt/news.asp?newsitemid=139151
The Telegraph, Calcutta: http://telegraphindia.com/1120204/jsp/opinion/story_15087514.jsp
Bangladesh Online: http://bdnews24.com/details.php?id=217708&cid=2
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firstname.lastname@example.org (Newsletter editor)