Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia – October 2008
Presiding President: Hassan Shahriar, Bangladesh
The Commonwealth Journalists Association emerged from its conference in Kuching, Sarawak in October 2008 with a renewed commitment to fight for the rights of journalists, increase its training capacity and prepare for involvement in the Commonwealth summit meeting in Trinidad the following November, 2009.
The Kuching conference, attended by 68 journalists from 18 countries, was sponsored in part by the non-government organisation AZAM and partly funded by the Commonwealth Foundation, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a consortium of Bangladesh supporters fronm CJA Bangladesh and CJA-UK Bangladesh, and Norman Webster of Montreal.
We focused on the modern Commonwealth, global warming, changing technology and its impact on journalism, and the treatment of journalists by governments. The proceedings received excellent coverage from all types of media in Kuching and elsewhere. Several CJA delegates doubled as reporters for their own news outlets
Our communiqué, published here, reflects the main points that emerged from the conference.
The welfare of our members is central to the work of the Commonwealth Journalists Association. We have documented evidence of journalists in some countries being abused by despots masquerading as politicians.
We will expose and embarrass. We will lobby our own governments to pressure these despots into treating journalists with basic human respect.
We will respond quickly and with determination to every act of abuse reported to us and use the vast multi-nation resources of the CJA to ensure maximum publicity when journalists are arrested, tortured or even killed in their pursuit of truth.
The Commonwealth Journalists Association urges, and will encourage, increased and improved coverage of climate change in news media throughout the Commonwealth.
We feel that climate change, and its potentially devastating impact on all aspects of human life across the planet, needs intense and ongoing journalistic attention using the checks and balances that the best practices of our profession demand.
As an invigorated, more robust CJA enters a new era of unprecedented connectedness among members, we will use our capacity to share information on the impact and science of climate change in our home countries and foster diligent reporting on climate change at the media houses we represent.
Silver Jubilee Conference
Of the Commonwealth Journalists Association
Dhaka, Bangladesh, Februarv, 2003
Presiding President: Murray Burt, Canada
The Commonwealth Journalists Association held its Silver Jubilee Conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 16 to 23 February 2003. The conference sessions, focusing on the theme of “Civil Society and Good Governance: The journalist’s role,” were held in the hospitable surroundings of the Pan-Pacific Sonargaon Hotel. The conference was opened by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia, and was closed by Advocate Abdul Hamid, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Bangladesh Parliament.
It was also addressed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon; the director of the Commonwealth Foundation, Colin Ball; and the country director for Bangladesh for the World Bank, Frederick Temple; also by the Foreign Minister M. Moshed Khan; the Finance Minister M. Saifur Rahman; the Infonl1ation Minister M. Tarikullslam; and by the editors of the main media of Bangladesh. The President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Professor Iajuddin Ahmed, entertained conference members to breakfast and gave a short address.
Good Governance: The Conference explored thoroughly the role of journalists in finding common ground with civil society and promoting good governance. In these discussions the participants were aided by memorable presentations in which Colin Ball defined the limits and influence of civil society and Dr Sanjay Pradhan of the World Bank gave clear shape to the sometimes shadowy form of good governance.
As well, the conference heard an outstanding presentation from Matthew Neuhaus, director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s political affairs division, as he projected the political role of the Commonwealth in promoting good governance.
Training: The Conference noted that the Commonwealth Journalists Association has entered a new phase in the design and delivery of its training progamme, launching a far-reaching and integrated plan to promote varied professional training in the Commonwealth that includes specialist reporting and co-ordinated courses in particular Commonwealth regions, including train-the-trainer courses in West Africa and the Caribbean.
Iraq crisis: The conference coincided with the Middle East crisis, which became a thread running through the week’s discussions. A majority of ClA members present deplored the escalating preparations for war against Jraq before the United Nations inspectors had carried out their tasks and, as a Commonwealth association that includes journalists who have seen the horrors of war at first hand, we protest through the British and Australian High Commissioners in Dhaka at their governments’ stated policy to join the United States in military action.
Other CJA members stated their conviction that, whatever their individual opinions On this subject, it was not the appropriate role of a journalists association to express itself on such a political matter and it should confine joint statements to matters concerning the treatment of journalists and the free flow of information.
Zimbabwe: We have followed with dismay the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. Since our previous CJA meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, in February 2000, the human condition of the Zimbabwe peoples has worsened tragically, and we decry the measures taken by the Mugabe government in legislative action and crass harassment to restrict further press freedom. We note with sadness the early death of Mark Chavunduka, a respected Zimbabwean editor who suffered torture while under arrest by the military more than two years ago.
Bangladesh: While acknowledging the problems of the Government of Bangladesh in addressing the increase of crime, and having heard the criticisms of the Hon. Prime Minister about untrue coverage in the foreign and domestic media, we must nevertheless protest against the ill-treatment, including torture, of journalists and others during ‘Operation Clean Heart’.
Torture in the Commonwealth: In this connection, we must add our feelings of dismay at the violation of human rights that has gone unpunished because of the impunity enjoyed by police and the military in a number of Commonwealth countries when pretrial violence and detention is imposed, and when torture becomes a feature of interrogation.
A new President: The conference elected by acclamation Hassan Shahriar. executive editor of the Daily lttefaq, Dhaka, as the new International President of the ClA. He takes over from Murray Burt of Winnipeg, Canada, who has headed the organization with distinction since 1997. It also elected as vice-presidents Padmaja Padman of Malaysia, Doyin Mahmoud of Nigeria and Martin Mulligan of the United Kingdom.
Relocation in Trinidad: The conference followed up on, and reinforced, the initial decision made in February 2000 to relocate ClA headquarters to Trinidad and Tobago, while leaving a small office in London. This relocation is being carried out in the context of decentralizing Commonwealth non-government organizations from the United Kingdom.
Finallv, to our sponsors: We wish to record our thanks to the seven sponsoring organizations and individual who made this conference possible. They are the World Bank; the Commonwealth Foundation; the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Nornlan Webster of Montreal, Canada; the CJA Trust; and the CJA Bangladesh.
Members of the last of these sponsors poured enonnous effort into a major organizational task. We would also thank the various sponsors – whether ministers of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, local newspaper publishers and editors, or commercial banks – for the welcome flow of hospitality.
2001 CJA Conference
Abuja, Nigeria, February 2001
Presidng President, Murray Burt, Canada
The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) chose Nigeria for its sixth international conference in order to focus international attention on the need to help consolidate the democratic form of government recently restored in Nigeria after many years of military rule, and to provide local journalists with moral and if possible physical material support in their efforts to buttress civilian rule.
The Conference was made possible by the generosity of the following sponsors: The World Bank Institute; The Commonwealth Media Development Fund; the New Zealand Official Development Assistance Good Governance Programme; the Leventis Foundation; the Commonwealth Foundation; the CJA Trust and CJA founder member Norman Webster. Computer equipment and internet access were made available with the help of Shell Nigeria and Linkserve.
The Conference took place from 12-16 February 2001 at the Ladi Kwali Conference Centre in the Abuja Sheraton and was attended by 60 or more journalists daily, with a core of approximately 40 CJA representatives from every region of the Commonwealth augmented by the daily attendance of local Nigerian journalists.
Abuja proved to be a challenging venue to plan a Conference as communications can be unreliable, and facilities were to a certain extent unproven. In the event the reception both by local journalists and by the Federal Govermnent of Nigeria went a long way to show that the gesture of the CJA in choosing Abuja had been greatly appreciated. The fact that Abuja could now welcome such a conference, and the attendance of the Commonwealth Secretary General to address the Conference on the topic of the Commonwealth and the Media, demonstrated that Nigeria had been welcomed back into the full Commonwealth community. The conference received regular radio/TV and newspaper coverage within Nigeria, and the President of Nigeria paid the CJA the compliment of inviting the full overseas delegation to breakfast at his state residence.
The conference meetings did not shirk the hard questions that can be asked about Nigeria’s military past, or the difficulties now attendant on the return to democracy. Emeka Izeze, Managing Editor of The Guardian wrote a paper entitled Keepers of the Flame: How the Press has contributed to Nigerian democracy. Mark Tomlinson, Director of the World Bank in Nigeria, spoke on the role of the media in exposing corruption. M.W.Maida, Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria looked at the prospects for the New Media in Nigeria, while Professor Jerry Gana, the Minister of Information, considered the outlook for the media as a whole in Nigeria in a particularly frank plenary session. Professor Rex Nettleford, vice- chancellor of the University of the West Indies, set the role of the journalist and good governance in a wide cultural context and led two stimulating discussions. In addition the delegates split into four groups to consider and issue short reports on topics of particular relevance: political, parliamentary and election reporting; reporting economic and political corruption; gender and equality issues; and reporting religious and ethnic conflict. Their conclusions, together with the conference communiqué and a special statement on the disturbing position in Zimbabwe, are attached as part of this report.
Hong Kong – January 1997
Presiding President, Ray Ekpu, Nigeria
Windhoek, Namibia – June 1994
Presiding President, Ray Ekpu, Nigeria
Barbados – 1990
India – 1987
Cyprus – 1983 (Inaugural CJA Conference)