The Chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union, Lord Black, has made a speech interpreted as a powerful call to arms for the Commonwealth press industry at the launch of the “Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression” on 11 April.
Lord Black, himself the executive director of the Telegraph Media Group, has said that media freedom must be “absolutely central” to the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting taking place in London on 19-20 April.
He said that the Commonwealth had a “woeful record” on media freedom that “undermines democracy itself” and believes that public debate in Commonwealth countries has been stifled by an “absence of trust media free from harassment and repressive laws.”
Fake news and disinformation are “sapping [citizens’] ability to make informed democratic choices” which he claimed goes against the Commonwealth Charter that has “a panoramic vision of liberty with free speech and freedom of expression at its heart.”
The “Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression” or “Twelve Principles” were established by a Working Group on ‘Media and Good Governance’ set up by the Commonwealth Journalists Association and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
The principles are as follows, and more information can be found here.
- Freedom of expression
- Restrictions on freedom of expression
- Access to Information
- Parliaments and the Media
- Judiciaries and the Media
- The role of media in elections
- The safety of journalists
- Ending impunity
- Media Self-Regulation and Complaints
- Media regulation
- Observance of these Principles
- Upholding Commonwealth values
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting takes place every two years and this marks the fourth time that the United Kingdom has hosted since it was established in 1971.