From the very beginning, the CPU was primarily concerned with monitoring the status of press freedom throughout the Commonwealth and responding to any breaches of this freedom by lobbying governments. The new CPU Media Trust is taking up this torch but now with an even broader mandate; that of the Commonwealth media as a whole.
A free media is an essential element in maintaining parliamentary democracy. But it is important to remember why the media occupies this crucial position. It is not because of any special wisdom, interest or status enjoyed by proprietors, editors or journalists but because the media are the eyes and ears of the general public. It acts on behalf of the public. The right to publish is neither more nor less than theirs. Indeed, it could be said that the media are the trustees for the general public. In a perfect democracy, the media should act as a bridge between government and civil society and also safeguard national interests.
Freedom of speech is an important right that journalists share with other citizens. It includes not only the right to comment but the right to communicate information. Without this right democratic life would be impossible because there would be no public discussion of the issues affecting citizens and they could have no access to the facts upon which to base their opinions and decisions.
The media has a huge responsibility, it has the power to form and change opinions and events, maybe even the course of history. It is imperative to use this power wisely and responsibly. This is even more important in today's 24 hour, multi-media world.
We hope to draw on the experiences of our colleagues throughout the Commonwealth and maintain a comprehensive and up to date information centre on breaches of media freedom throughout the Commonwealth. As the site develops, we are planning to launch an alert section where individuals can post incidents as and when they occur, and where appropriate, create online appeals to which subscribers can add their support.
At present, there are sections on the principles and declarations that govern media freedom, a database of incidents that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have compiled, and reports and reviews pertaining to Commonwealth media freedom. There is also a table of press freedom rankings since 2002 for the world and Commonwealth, drawn from information provided by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).