Commonwealth journalists to fight freedom curbs


Kuching (Malaysia) : The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) Saturday resolved to fight curbs on media freedom from “despots masquerading as politicians”, mainly in the developing nations.

Support TwoCircles

“We will expose and embarrass them. We will lobby our own governments to pressure these despots into treating journalists with basic human respect,” a communiqué issued here at the end of the CJA’s five-day eighth conference said.

The conference said it would take a stand on incidents of media freedom abuse and curbs by responding “quickly and with determination to every act of abuse”.

The conference witnessed debate on journalists covering terrorism and wars without protection, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. There were also discussions on tackling disasters like the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and cyclones in Bangladesh, and of coverage of elections being overruled by governments in some of the African countries.

Ninety-one delegates from 20 of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth participated in the discussions.

The CJA was founded in 1978 and participants felt it was now entering “a new era of unprecedented connectiveness among members”.

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, who could not attend, emphasised in a message the need for tackling the new tools of communication to further the spread of information.

There has been an acute feeling that the Commonwealth and the developed members have distanced themselves, paying little or no contributions and have made it a club of the developing nations.

The communiqué said the Commonwealth Media Development Fund (CMDF) had ignored its commitments and this was “unacceptable”.

It appealed to all Commonwealth governments to follow their own summit resolution and honour their commitments.

India would be among the countries where branches would be set up or reactivated.

Hassan Shahriar of Bangladesh was re-elected president of CJA. Martin Mulligan of Britain was re-elected the vice president. Africa would be represented by Doyin Mahmoud of Nigeria and Asia-Pacific by Florence Yii of Malaysia.

The executive committee elected at the conference comprised Champika Liyanaarachchi (Sri Lanka), Mahendra Ved (India), Lance Polu (Samoa), Fauzia Shaheen (Pakistan), Newton Sibanda (Zambia), Caroline Jackson (Malaysia), Belal Ahmed Syed (Britain), Alice Drito (Uganda).

The executive co-opted veterans Pieter Wessels (Australia), Derek Ingram (Britain), Rita Payne (Britain), Burt Murray (Canada) and Farid Hossain (Bangladesh).