LONDON: Against the backdrop of growing challenges to journalists in Commonwealth member states, six Commonwealth organisations have unveiled a 12-point code of conduct focused on the media’s role in good governance, said a statement on Wednesday.

Published ahead of the Commonwealth Summit to be held in London later this month, The Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance is a comprehensive universal code of conduct, including guidelines to assist member states work on the relationship between the media, and the judiciary, parliament and the executive; the role of the media in elections; and issues of self-regulation.

“Governments are always keen to shape the political message. Media freedom is hard won and needs constant vigilance and active defence,” the statement quoted Dr Sue Onslow, the deputy director of ICWS while addressing a launching ceremony of the publication which was held at the University of London’s Senate House.

While defining the need of the initiative, it said that with media freedoms in peril in Commonwealth nations, and elsewhere, journalists and media workers have suffered a marked increase in the number of threats and violent assaults, including murder, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment in the course of their work.

“According to Unesco, fifty-seven journalists were killed in Commonwealth countries between 2013 and 2017,” said the statement. “Moreover, several leading Commonwealth countries are among those with the highest incidence of killings of media workers and increasing levels of impunity.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and India were among those countries in the 2017 Global Impunity Index published by the Committee to Protect Journalists that identifies 12 countries with the highest rates of failure to bring to justice the killers of journalists.”

Impunity ratings in Pakistan, it said, have increased by 113 per cent and in India by 100pc over the decade that CPJ has published this index because the killers of journalists are rarely ever brought to justice.

Human rights groups say that high impunity rates are 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, added the statement.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2018