KUCHING, 14 Oct: Members of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) believe that fair, accurate and responsible reporting is an essential element in the operation of a democratic society and seek to increase their role and influence in this field.
CJA president Hassan Shariar said the association tried its best to support Commenwealth journalists being persecuted by governments for carrying out their professional duties.
“For years, the CJA has been demanding for the abolition of criminal libel laws, which can send journalists to jail for criminal defamation. We want an end to this draconian practice,” he said in his speech when opening the 8th CJA conference here today.
He said as a professional association of the working journalists from the Commonwealth, the CJA always upheld press freedom and media rights.
The CJA believed that freedom of expression had no alternative to democratic order and it would, therefore, remain vigilant in ensuring that governments kept their commitments to freedom of expression.
Hassan said since the organisation was formed, the CJA had been demanding the Commonwealth to declare its support for freedom of expression, a subject conspicuously absent from the Commonwealth Declarations of 1971 and 1991 and the Millbrook Action Programme of 1995.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud wanted the foreign media to correct any misperception with regard to various issues relating to Sarawak development policies and programmes, through more balanced and informed reporting.
He said the international media played an important role in shaping the future of the people especially in the context of today’s globalised world.
“We are especially grateful to our media counterparts abroad especially those who, over recent years, had made efforts to understand our challenges better,” he said in his speech read by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan.
The CJA was founded in 1978 and since 1983, it has organised training courses for journalists in many Commonwealth countries and in many fields such as basic reporting, environmental journalism, election reporting and financial analysis. Out of 53 Commonwealth countries, CJA has members in 39 countries. — Bernama