At least 57 people have been murdered in the last five years.
The UN has confirmed the number, saying in its latest report that 57 journalists were killed in Commonwealth countries in 2013-17. Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh and Maltese journalist, writer and anti-corruption activist Daphne Anne Caruana Galizia were among them. It has been clearly mentioned in the report – prepared by the working groups of different Commonwealth Organisations – that the Commonwealth countries also registered numerous cases of abduction and abuse during this period.
After the publication of the report on April 16, the UN said that it would be handed over to leaders of the member states during the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in London.
Investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb in Malta in October 2017
All the 53 Commonwealth nations have been strongly criticised in recent times because of their failures in protecting journalists. Media persons have also been abused in these countries mainly for criticising the government. Talking to the local media in London a couple of days ago, Vice President of Commonwealth Legal Education Association Dr Peter Slinn said: “Civil society groups see the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group, which is meant to be a custodian of the organisation’s political values, as ineffective. It might better be described as an inaction group.”
Meanwhile, the UN proposed a number of steps in the report to protect journalists and presented a charter – titled ‘Commonwealth Principles on the Role of the Media in Good Governance’ – at the CHOGM. According to Dr Slinn, 12 issues have been mentioned in the charter. The world body also stressed on the relationship between three branches of the political system (the executive, the legislature and the judiciary) and the journalists. The UN advised the Commonwealth nations to provide physical and legal safety to the media persons and mentioned in the charter that journalists should not be abused while covering elections.
Deputy Director of the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies Dr Sue Onslow said: “Governments are always keen to shape the political message. Media freedom is hard won and needs constant vigilance and active defence.” For his part, Commonwealth Journalists Association President Mahendra Ved stressed: “Media freedom is in peril. The Commonwealth should demonstrate the will to defend it through actions, not just words. I believe these guidelines can help to make the commitments real.”
However, it’s difficult to predict whether the Commonwealth nations will take necessary steps to protect media persons as the ruling parties in many of these countries have launched attacks on the media to hide their failures.
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