A message from the Chairman
Hope finds its voice in the media’s decade of challenge
By Lord Black
AS the second decade of the 21st century begins, it is depressing to record that media freedom appears to be more under threat than ever. In the past decade over 500 journalists have been killed in the line of work and more than 1300 jailed. That is a bleak indictment of the often politically-fuelled fear and loathing of the media in far too many countries
During the last decade the promotion of democratic change has been high on the agenda and actively encouraged. This raises some worrying questions as to whether the rise of democracy might actually be detrimental to media freedom in some circumstances.
Most of these journalists live and work in countries with authoritarian regimes but there are signs that more tolerant governments are also increasingly clamping down on the media.
However, for those under harsher regimes, it appears that being responsible is not enough. As unrest continues to spread across the Middle East, the Al-Jazeera bureau in Cairo was closed down, its licences cancelled and the accreditation for its staff withdrawn. Al Jazeera has been exemplary - and remarkably balanced - in its coverage of the crisis in Egypt but nonetheless the government has taken this step in an attempt to censor the flow of information. It only remains to be seen how long it will be before other international agencies are closed down.
To achieve a free media, the press has to be seen to be responsible and professional. The question that always has to be answered therefore is whether the media is living up to this duty. Of course this is a matter of perception but certainly some see the so-called Western media as increasingly driven by celebrity-based journalism. Maybe it is time to reassess our priorities? Let us know what you think.
If this next decade is to see progress in media freedom then we must ensure that we have properly equipped our next generation of journalists by effective training schemes and programmes that actively promote the concept of responsible journalism. Journalists need to understand how to do their job within the law and in this self regulation will often be the key.
The CPU Media Trust - through this website and other initiatives - will continue to do whatever it can to increase media freedom within the Commonwealth, whether this be through training, lobbying for legal reform or moral support for those who suffer at the hands of hard line governments. Always remember, governments only crack down when they have something to hide. It is a journalist's job to find out what that "something" is through fearless reporting in the public interest. Let us know what we can do to help.
This then is how we see our role. But the CPU Media Trust is nothing without you, its supporters in the wider Commonwealth. We want also to know how you see the situation on the ground, in your part of the world. This column is open to you to tell us precisely that.
Next week, Sinha Ratnatunga, respected Editor of The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka, and a sometimes battered veteran of years of battling for press freedom, will update us on the situation from an island that has become one of the world’s most dangerous places to carry on the business of journalism.
We will follow him with other eminent contributors. We would like you to join them. So please, let us have your view: share your troubles and successes with an audience with whom your experience will almost certainly resonate.
We are in it together. We have a platform. You have a voice. Let us start 2011 by bringing them together.