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Commonwealth Journalists' Association

Commonwealth journalists to rally in Malta on Jan 29, 2012, for a 3-day forum on threats to democratic principles.

Topics under consideration: New pressures on journalism and freedom of expression; The deadly targeting of journalists in bloody conflicts; Democracy’s frailness vs. the role of journalists; Journalists and the election monitoring process; The impact of social media on democracy and good governance; Climate change and environmental disasters; Media scandals: Rupert Murdoch, for example.

Why: This conference has become important for several reasons. Never in the Commonwealth’s history has media itself been so much the part of the daily news it delivers. Consider the Murdoch fiasco; MPs’ expense excesses; killings in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, for example; outrage in The Gambia, Uganda, Fiji and elsewhere; arbitrary arrests and threats by authority and bullying by corporate powers; the shrinking by governments of access to information laws. And so on. All bear on journalists’ ethics, styles, livelihoods, safety and their very lives. All, in turn, have an impact on free society, democracy and good governance. Never in CJA’s existence has the importance of these matters been more deserving of a professional airing by its members and experts.

All of these increasingly threatening social shifts within Commonwealth and beyond have occurred even as technology and social media have increased the profession’s capacity to distribute and articulate the problems easier and perhaps solve them. Societies in general have become more enlightened.

But, CJA wants to examine causes and remedies of what ails the journalistic profession in so many countries.

Where: Radisson Blu Bay Point Hotel, in the resort community of St. Julians, not far from Valletta, Malta’s capital.

When: Sunday Jan 29, ending at noon on Thursday Feb 2, 2012.

How much: A modest 25-euro a head registration, with case by case efforts to subsidize airfares and accommodation for up to two delegates per branch if finances permit.

Also: It will also be an occasion to elect an executive, and frame a new three-year program of advocacy, training and renewal for the 34-year-old Commonwealth NGO.

Plans for the conference, last held in 2008 in Kuching, Malaysia, are being set by the CJA executive committee. A draft agenda is on the CJA website at www.commonwealthjournalists.com. It is anticipated that the prime minister of Malta will be one of the keynote speakers.

Radisson bedroom rates are 70 euros for a single and 37.50 for each person, double occupancy. This includes breakfast.

ABOUT THE CJA: The CJA, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, is an association for journalists, many of whom are struggling to do good work in often hostile environments. The CJA’s strength comes from quiet work and moral influence in speaking for journalists throughout the Commonwealth, defending their interests, and trying to make them better at what they do.

The CJA holds conferences aimed at journalists throughout the Commonwealth and the issues affecting the craft. Malta (pop. 400,000) is one of the most advanced nations in the world in terms of Internet opportunities.

The CJA was founded in 1978 by a group of journalists after a conference of Commonwealth non-governmental organisations at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. The launch had the support of the then Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal as well as the Director of the Commonwealth Foundation – the body which over many years has provided core and activity funding to the CJA.

Since 1983, the CJA 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. Training programmes are funded mainly by Commonwealth Foundation and through local partnership.

For more information about the conference, contact Bryan Cantley, Executive Director, Commonwealth Journalists Association, by email: bcantley@nna-ccj.ca. For more information about the CJA, go to www.commonwealthjournalists.com.

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