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Commonwealth bodies propose code to protect media

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Ahead of the (CHOGM) in next week, several bodies on Wednesday raised the issue of journalists being killed and the threat to the media's rights.

Six Commonwealth organisations unveiled proposals for a 12-point code of conduct aimed at reducing the heavy toll of journalists' killings and other threats to the media's right to report.

"freedom is in peril," said. "The Commonwealth should now demonstrate the will to defend it through actions, not just words; I believe these guidelines can help to make the commitments real."

"Governments are always keen to shape the political message. freedom is hard won and needs constant vigilance and active defence," Sue Onslow, of ICWS, said.

Patricia Scotland has said that in 2017 that the number of journalists killed for doing their jobs represented "a serious indictment of our collective efforts to build a safer and more inclusive future".

Among the widely reported cases in 2017 were the fatal shooting of in in September and the car bombing in October that killed in

Figures published by Unesco, the UN agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression, show that 57 journalists were killed for their work in Commonwealth countries between 2013 and 2017.

The Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the in Good Governance were made public at the University of London's Senate House, the home of the (ICWS), the (CJA) said in a statement.

The six signatories are the Commonwealth Journalists Association, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Commonwealth Legal Education Association,

They were drawn up by a working group representing journalists, academics, parliamentarians, lawyers, legal educators and human rights advocates across the Commonwealth.

The document reflects international standards and best practice with regard to the relationships between the and the three branches of government, effective protections for the independence of the and its role in informing the public, the media's respect for accuracy and fairness, and promoting member states' observance of the principles.

"The CLA has been proud to play a part in drafting these important principles," Desmond Browne, who represented the on the working group, said.

"The intention is that they should provide a universal code for the Commonwealth which will protect both freedom of expression and the activities of responsible journalists."

Unesco's statistics show that fewer than 10 per cent of all killings of journalists in Commonwealth countries have resulted in those responsible being brought to justice.

Human rights groups say that high rate of impunity is at odds with the Commonwealth's commitments to the rule of law and protecting the media's legitimate right to report in the public interest.

"As a letter-bomb survivor and victim of the most gruesome attack on freedom in my country, Nigeria, I support the Commonwealth Principles," Kayode Soyinka, publisher of Africa Today, said in the statement.

"The time has come for the Commonwealth to prove its relevance as a true champion of democratic values," Soyinka said.

Apart from condemning the high number of targeted killings of journalists in several Commonwealth member states, and press freedom organisations have called for coordinated actions to combat numerous cases of abduction, violent assault, criminal prosecution and arbitrary closures of outlets.

The organisations which are jointly putting forward the principles say they want these to be adopted by the Commonwealth as a "manual of good practice" to assist governments, legislatures, judiciaries and the to contribute in appropriate ways to promoting open, democratic and accountable societies, in accordance with Commonwealth values.

This year's CHOGM is being held in from April 16 to 20. Indian will be among the leaders attending the summit.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, April 11 2018. 16:08 IST
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