Multiple murders of journalists in East and West ignored by 53 Commonwealth leaders at summit in London
Commonwealth leaders who met in London last week proclaimed their ‘proud history’ of promoting democracy and human rights. But they turned a blind eye to well-publicised cases of journalists being threatened or killed with impunity in member states – not only in Pakistan and India but in Malta, where anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed six months ago by a car bomb after alleging widespread corruption in high places.
William Horsley says the high-profile gathering in London turned a blind eye to increasing violence and censorship that have given cover to abuses of power in too many countries.
Foreign ministers from the organisation’s 53 member states meeting in London heard powerful appeals for the Commonwealth to do more to protect media independence and the lives of journalists who face threats and acts of violence for their work. But proposals which were described as ’Important and timely’ were submitted for the attention of Commonwealth leaders by an expert Working Group for a new ’code’ on media-government relations, but they were ignored in the final Communique.
If the prime ministers and presidents of Commonwealth member states stretching from Asia and Europe to the Caribbean had been alert they should have been aware of the rising tide of demands for them to take determined action together to strengthen protections for free expression and free media wherever it is under attack. On 11 April the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Commonwealth Journalists Association hosted a well-attended event in London where prominent figures from around the Commonwealth called for its leaders to prioritise protections for independent media to enable free elections and to counter corruption and arbitrary misuses of political power.
The newly-published “Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance”
www.cja-uk.org are designed to be a ’manual of good practice’ on the media’s dealings with governments, parliaments and courts. They were published before the summit and were commended to the attention of leaders through an established process by which initiatives from the Commonwealth’s partner organisations are put forward for the attention of the leaders at summits like the recent one in London..
The Communique did, however, re-affirm the leaders’ commitment to the Latimer House Principles on the democratic separation of powers which are accepted as expressing the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. Heads requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to work in partnership with other Commonwealth organisations to promote dialogue with the three branches of government.
(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))