Terrorism, like other factors that disrupts society, must be fought. But even in the `old` Commonwealth this is being used as an excuse by people with a security mind-set to stop reporters, newspapers, and cameraman doing their work, the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) said.
In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day the CJA International President Hassan Shahriar said that people who never see the value of accountability have jumped on the bandwagon of `terrorism` and are quietly removing the rights that make politicians, the military and security people accountable.
In developed countries of the Commonwealth, according to the CJA, some old and hard-fought rights are being stripped away from journalists under the guide of fighting terrorism.
`The most recent example is in Sri Lanka where the first woman editor of a daily newspaper, who is a member of the CJA executive committee, was verbally intimidated and threatened by a Government official. In Gambia, a leading newspaper has been closed down. Journalists in Pakistan, where eight were killed and 15 abducted during the last five years, are finding it difficult to report freely.
In Bangladesh, families of slain journalists are awaiting punishment to the killers,` Mr. Shahriar said.The Commonwealth Journalists Association said it was shocking to know that many Governments talk of democracy, but silence the Press either through legislation or intimidation and also keep mum when journalists are harassed or attacked by `powerful` groups, often patronized by them.
Developing countries are also suffering from media inroads, though it is less obvious as the start mark is less high. Throughout the last year the progress in the media has been one step forward and one-a-and-half steps back, so that in many countries working journalists are in worse shape than they were in mid-2006. This is despite many courses and conferences to promote good governance, accountability, development and sustainability.
In many developing countries the education of journalists has not improved despite the increasing demands placed on them by globalisation and development, and expected of them by many international institutions. There are more graduate journalists, but they are not going into the media because after their years of study they can`t earn a living wage there.
So the year ahead must again be a struggle, and a fight where necessary, to push ahead in our advocacy of the working journalist. The CJA will continue to raise its voice against press censorship, harassment, criminal defamation and persecution of journalists. It needs to stand up publicly for working journalists on all fronts, and to listen and respond to their needs, the CJA said.