Commonwealth voices call for open dialogue to end oppression of media

Ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Rwanda in the week of June 20 came an impassioned call for the cause of free media as part of democratic society.

The appeal came at a webinar on April 27 hosted by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Freedom of the Media, which assessed the Commonwealth’s track record on the commitment of its member states to freedom of expression. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
Yet until now the Commonwealth has stood aloof from the UN plan, which embodies states’ obligations to protect free and independent media as a cornerstone of democratic societies.

At the webinar, Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn newspaper in Pakistan said killing journalists had been “bad for Pakistan’s international reputation” so instead there was now an attempt to “kill journalism”.
And William Horsley, former BBC correspondent and representative of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) said “The institutional Commonwealth should open itself up and look closely at how its own inaction has enabled a slide towards authoritarianism and cultures of impunity in its member countries”.  

Commonwealth and media freedom webinar – Zaffar Abbas at 6:50 on audio
Commonwealth and media freedom webinar – William Horsley at 18:45 on audio
What are governments doing to end media oppression in the Commonwealth – CJA