Rita Payne on Commonwealth journalism

Rita Payne stepped down in April as the President of the Commonwealth Journalists’ Association (CJA). She still sits as a Board member of the Round Table. She spoke to Round Table’s website about journalism, the Commonwealth and the value of news analysis.

Round Table: You have recently stepped down as President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association, what role do you think the CJA can play in today’s world?

Rita Payne: With a disturbing rise in killings, arrests and general victimisation of journalists inside and outside the Commonwealth, there is a greater need than ever for the CJA. The association has an important role to play in drawing attention to attacks on individual journalists and highlighting why a free media is essential for a healthy democracy.

Read the full interview here.

'Without journalism there is no democracy’ says new president of journalists association

The Commonwealth Journalists Association has elected a new President, Mahendra Ved, a senior journalist based in New Delhi and the President of the CJA’s India branch.

Mr Ved was elected for a two-year term during the CJA’s conference, held in London from 11-13 April 2016. He writes a column for The New Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur, is the Senior Editor of Power Politics monthly magazine, and is a contributor to All India Radio.

Mr Ved paid tribute to outgoing CJA President Rita Payne who has become CJA President-Emeritus. Ms Payne has been an “inspiration” from her time on BBC Asia Today to her time as CJA President since 2012, he said.

Addressing her colleagues, President-Emeritus Rita Payne said: “The CJA is an important body because it serves as a reference point for journalists who feel threatened or marginalised or simply wish to connect with colleagues in other Commonwealth countries. The association highlights cases of journalists being killed, tortured, abducted or arrested because of their work.”

Read the full article here.

Digital era brings your greatest challenge, S-G tell journalists

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland, has told journalists that the demands of the digital age require ever-higher standards in their profession.

Read the full article, written by Martin Lumb, here.

Revealed: UK government blocks foreign journalists from press freedom conference

On its website the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claims that ‘we’re strengthening the Commonwealth as a focus for democratic practice and development. We’re working with the Commonwealth Secretariat to strengthen its institutions so it promotes human rights, democratic values and the rule of law.’ It continues: ‘we’re engaging with civil society across the Commonwealth.’

In the light of this declaration one would expect the FCO to welcome this week’s conference in London by the Commonwealth Journalists Association. The would-be participants spend their lives, often at high personal risk, to bring the truth to their followers in their own countries. They include many of the best and bravest editors and reporters. I say ‘would-be’ because some have been denied the chance to attend by their governments.

But others – shamefully – have been frustrated by our government.

British government officials have refused these heroes entry visas to the UK. Instead of being able to enjoy a few days safety and respite in the company of fellow journalists from the 53 Commonwealth countries, they have been snubbed and made to feel even more alone and vulnerable.

Read the full article, written by Peter Oborne, here.

Nude trekkers atop Mount Kinabalu deported for offending religious sensibilities

“This is a wake-up call,” said Rita Payne, president of the Commonwealth Journalists Association. “Students, journalists, backpackers should all show respect to the culture and religious beliefs of other people and stop thinking that what’s acceptable in their own country is acceptable everywhere else. It’s not.”

Read the full article, written by Trevor Grundy here.

The History of Bhutan

Despite its growing popularity and the rising scholarly interest in the country, Bhutan remains one of the most poorly studied places on earth. Combining both traditional perspectives and modern academic analysis, Karma Phuntsho’s The History of Bhutan tells the story of Bhutan in a narrative style interspersed with some analytical and topical discussion, and numerous citations and translations from earlier writings. It is primarily a historical account, but it also includes substantive discussions of Bhutan’s geography, culture and society to give readers an incisive introduction to the country.

Follow this link to purchase the book.

CJA Bangladesh accords reception to Rita Payne

The Commonwealth Journalist Association (CJA) Bangladesh Chapter accorded a reception to CJA Global President Rita Payne on April 16, 2014 at Dhaka Club in the capital city of Bangladesh. Rita Payne was in Bangladesh for a weeklong professional visit.

CJA President Emeritus Hassan Shahriar, CJA Bangladesh President Farid Hossain, Secretary General Shyamal Dutta and other members of CJA Bangladesh Chapter received Rita Payne with a bouquet. Former minister and research scholar Mizanur Rahman Shelly, State Minister Mr Mirza Azam, editors and senior journalists of print and electronic media, representatives of different missions of Commonwealth countries in Dhaka and elites of the city were present at the reception.

Welcoming Rita Payne, CJA Secretary General Shyamal Dutta said the CJA has been moving forward under her leadership and the CJA would continue to play its dynamic role for ensuring freedom of press and journalists’ right. CJA President Emeritus Hassan Shahriar mentioned that the CJA, with its long untiring efforts, could contribute for uniting the journalists of Commonwealth countries to protect their interest.

Conveying her thanks for the reception, Rita Payne said she was delighted to visit Bangladesh where the CJA Chapter is very active. She expressed the hope that the CJA would be strengthened further in Bangladesh and also in other Commonwealth countries and would continue efforts to uphold freedom of press and interest of the journalists.


Under strict embargo for 23.01 Wednesday 23 May 2012 GMT / 00.01 Thursday 24 May 2012 BST


Strong Arms Trade Treaty needed as UN Security Council increasingly looks unfit for purpose

The courage shown by protesters in the past 12 months has been matched by a failure of leadership that makes the UN Security Council seem tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose, Amnesty International said as it launched its 50th global human rights report with a call for a strong global Arms Trade Treaty later this year. "Failed leadership has gone global in the last year, with politicians responding to protests with brutality or indifference. Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.

The vocal and enthusiastic support for the protest movements shown by many global and regional powers in the early months of 2011, has not translated into action. As Egyptians go to the polls to vote for a new president, it looks increasingly as if the opportunities for change created by the protestors are being squandered. "In the last year it has all too often become clear that opportunistic alliances and financial interests have trumped human rights as global powers jockey for influence in the Middle East and North Africa," said Salil Shetty. "The language of human rights is adopted when it serves political or corporate agendas, and shelved when inconvenient or standing in the way of profit." A failure to intervene in Sri Lanka and inaction over crimes against humanity in Syria - one of Russia's main customers for arms - left the UN Security Council looking redundant as a guardian of global peace. The emerging powerhouses of India, Brazil and South Africa have too often been complicit through their silence. "There is a clear and compelling case for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation of crimes against humanity. The determination of some UN Security Council members to shield Syria at any cost leaves accountability for these crimes elusive and is a betrayal of the Syrian people," said Salil Shetty. Amnesty International Report 2012 documents specific restrictions on free speech in at least 91 countries as well as cases of people tortured or otherwise ill-treated in at least 101 countries - in many cases for taking part in demonstrations. "Ousting individual leaders - however tyrannical - is not enough to deliver long-term change. Governments must uphold freedom of expression at home and abroad, take international responsibilities seriously, and invest in systems and structures that ensure justice, freedom and equality before the law." The UN meeting to agree an Arms Trade Treaty in July will be an acid test for politicians to place rights over self-interest and profit. Without a strong treaty, the UN Security Council's guardianship of global peace and security seems doomed to failure; its permanent members wielding an absolute veto on any resolution despite being the world's largest arms suppliers. "Protestors have shown that change is possible. They have thrown down a gauntlet demanding that governments stand up for justice, equality and dignity. They have shown that leaders who don't meet these expectations will no longer be accepted. After an inauspicious start 2012 must become the year of action," said Salil Shetty.

Other global developments highlighted in Amnesty International Report 2012:

  • Highly repressive states including China threw the full weight of their security apparatus into the suffocation of protest. There was no improvement in North Korea's horrific human rights situation.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa uprisings resonated strongly with people - but excessive force was used against protesters in countries from Angola to Senegal to Uganda.
  • Social protest gathered strength in the Americas, frequently bringing people into confrontation with powerful economic and political interests. Activists were threatened and killed, including in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
  • In Russia, civic activism grew and the country saw its largest demonstrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but opposition voices were abused and systematically undermined.
  • There was no sign of significant change in countries such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This year's Eurovision Song Contest host, Azerbaijan, suppressed freedom of expression and sixteen prisoners of conscience are still behind bars for raising their voices in 2011.
  • Violence followed South Sudan's vote for independence but the UN Security Council - along with the African Union's Peace and Security Council - again failed to condemn abuses including indiscriminate bombardments by the Sudanese Armed Forces, or the Sudanese government's closure of affected states to humanitarian organizations.
  • In the Middle East and North Africa, as the uprisings occupied world attention, other deep-seated problems festered. Iran's government was increasingly isolated, tolerated no dissent, and used the death penalty with an enthusiasm only outstripped by China, while Saudi Arabia cracked down on protestors. Israel maintained its blockade of Gaza, prolonging the humanitarian crisis and continued to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank. Palestinian political organizations Fatah and Hamas targeted each other's supporters; Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups mounted tit-for-tat attacks in Gaza.
  • Myanmar's government took a pivotal decision to free more than 300 political prisoners and allow Aung San Suu Kyi to contest elections. An escalation of conflict-related human rights violations in ethnic minority areas, as well as continuing harassment and detention of activists, however, suggested limits to the reform.
  • Trends included abuses against Indigenous communities in the Americas as drives to exploit resources intensified; worsening discrimination in Africa over people's sexual orientation or gender identity; increased xenophobic rhetoric from some European politicians; and increased vulnerability to terrorist acts in Africa by Islamist armed groups.
  • Progress including the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty; the erosion of impunity for past abuses in the Americas; and landmark steps towards justice in Europe with the arrests of General Ratko Mladić and Croatian Serb Goran Hadžić, to face trial for crimes committed in the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia.