Across the Commonwealth, journalists, bloggers and others are facing official and de facto restrictions on freedom of expression and communication. The Institute has established a project to examine the challenges faced across the Commonwealth, looking at local factors as well as international pressures affecting journalistic freedom. The project started with a conference on The Commonwealth and Challenges to Media Freedom held in April 2017.

Since then, the project has convened a Working Group on Media and Good Governance which includes representatives from a number of Commonwealth partner organisations, including the Commonwealth Journalists Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. In March 2018, the Working Group agreed the Commonwealth principles on freedom of expression and the role of the media in good governance, proposing them for consideration by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at the April 2018 Commonwealth Summit. 

The Press Freedom Index for Commonwealth countries (2013-2018), compiled by Reporters Without Borders, is now available.

Kigale 2020: How serious IS the Commonwealth about Media Freedom? - 21 January 2020

In the Commonwealth Charter (2013), member countries signed up to Chapter V on Freedom of Expression: “We are committed to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media, and to enhancing democratic traditions and strengthening democratic processes.” While in office as British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt also put support for media freedom at the heart of Britain's foreign policy goals. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies organised a high-level event at the House of Commons on 21st January 2020 to discuss the Commonwealth’s track record on this issue, and the range of policy options to respond to global challenges. Distinguished speakers, led by Amal Clooney, UK Envoy on Media Freedom and the deputy Chair of the High Level Legal Panel, discussed the fundamental issue of media freedom and freedom of expression – as core human rights and vital underpinnings of democratic government - and the importance of multi-dimensional approaches to combat increasingly restricted media landscapes. All speakers endorsed the work of the ICWS, in collaboration with other key Commonwealth stakeholders, on the Commonwealth Principles on freedom of expression and the role of the media. Read the summary here

ICWS@70: India and the Media - 18 February 2019

In the past five years, there have been over 200 attacks on journalists and bloggers across India, with the greatest number of cases in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Three leading commentators on modern-day India discussed the sources and impact of multiple pressures from state and non-state actors on India’s once vibrant media. In the view of the Editors Guild of India, members of the BJP government and its extremist Hindu allies have “declared war”. The panelists considered the implications of targeting print, broadcast and online outlets for the country’s forthcoming elections in April and May 2019.

Chair: Mrs Rita Payne, Emeritus Chair, Commonwealth Journalists Association

Speakers: Professor James Manor, former Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Nupur Basu, journalist and documentary film maker

Salil Tripathi, journalist and chair, Writers in Prison, PEN International

Please see Commonwealth Opinion for continued debate on India and the media.

ICWS@70 - South Africa's election and the media

Fake news, disinformation and ANC control of the state broadcaster all featured in the 2016 local elections, as outlined in Martin Plaut’s recent article in the Conversation, and covert tactics have been used in other campaigns in South Africa.

Speakers at a recent ICWS event, discussed the impact of the media and fake news on elections and the implications for democracy. A podcast is available here

Chair: Dr Sue Onslow, Deputy Director ICWS 

Mr Justin Adams, UK Chairperson, Democratic Alliance
Dr Desne Masie, Economist and journalist. Fellow, Wits School of Governance and Senior Associate at Global Counsel
Mr Martin Plaut, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, & former BBC World Service (Africa Programme Editor)