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Advancing Freedom of Expression in the Commonwealth

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Speakers
Dr Anne T Gallagher AO
Victoria Rubadiri
Dionne Jackson-Miller
Dr Sa'eed Husaini
Julfikar Ali Manik
Date & Time
11:00am, 22 June 2022 - 12:30pm, 22 June 2022
Location
Kigali, Rwanda
About the event

Overview

The Commonwealth Charter affirms that freedom of expression—including media freedom—is essential to the flourishing of democratic societies and a basic condition for development. Recognising the complexity of the issue, as well as its importance, this session will involve a positive and forward-looking discussion of freedom of expression: why does it matter and how can it be protected? What can the Commonwealth – its member states and institutions – do to support and advance free and responsible media? How can the proposed Commonwealth Principles on Media Freedom help leverage positive change?

Context

Commonwealth Member States have publicly committed themselves to upholding ‘peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including through a free and responsible media’. But across all Commonwealth regions freedom of expression is under threat on multiple fronts. Restrictions on peaceful protest are becoming more commonplace, contributing to an overall shrinking of vital civic space. The safety of journalists is too often compromised. Repressive legislation is being used to stifle ideas and debate. Manipulations of the online space – including through internet shutdowns – are increasing. The way in which information is created and distributed is itself changing, with governments and private providers struggling to suppress bad information while respecting individual rights. The generally downward trend in freedom of expression, as measured by indexes such as the World Press Freedom Index and CIVICUS monitor, is contributing to an erosion of democratic culture and diminished government accountability at a time when such accountability has never been more important – or more urgent. The Commonwealth has acknowledged the importance of this issue and the need for positive change. Building on the Commonwealth Principles on the Three Branches of Government (Latimer House Principles), Member States are currently discussing a draft set of Principles on Media Freedom that is expected to be finalised in the course of 2022.

Key questions for the session

On the nature of the challenge: what are the most urgent and pressing challenges to freedom of expression in the Commonwealth? What challenges might lie ahead?

On what is working: what positive stories / lessons / advances can we look at from across the Commonwealth? What are the factors of success and how could these be replicated?

On the proposed Commonwealth Principles on Media Freedom: How can this initiative help advance freedom of expression? In its present form is the draft strong and comprehensive enough to support meaningful change? Should Member States be looking at also expanding the principles to include the specific challenges arising in recent years: the diminishing space for civic expression and the unregulated dominance of social media networks? Can the Commonwealth be more assertive when these principles are violated?

Speakers
Dr Anne T Gallagher AO Co-Moderator
Victoria Rubadiri Co-Moderator
Dionne Jackson-Miller Panellist
Dr Sa'eed Husaini Panellist
Julfikar Ali Manik Panellist
Co-Moderator
Dr Anne T Gallagher AO

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Anne brings extensive leadership experience to the role. A lawyer, practitioner, teacher, and scholar, her long international career has involved specialisation in a wide range of areas including human rights and the administration of criminal justice.

After several years teaching in the law school of the Australian National University, Anne was recruited to the United Nations where she served for 12 years, including as a special adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson. From 2003, Anne worked with the Association of South-East Asian Nations and its ten Member States to strengthen legislative and criminal justice responses to human trafficking and related exploitation.

Her recent and current appointments include President of the International Catholic Migration Commission; Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s Presidential Task Force on Human Trafficking; Academic Adviser at Doughty St Chambers; member of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration; and Chairperson of Girls Not Brides.

Anne’s work for human rights, justice, and equality has been widely recognised, earning her, among other honours, the Australian Freedom Award and the ‘Peace Woman of the Year’ award for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 2012, she was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and named a ‘2012 hero’ by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

As Director-General, Anne is the Commonwealth’s ambassador for civil society: working closely with Member States to advance people’s participation in all aspects of public dialogue.

Co-Moderator
Victoria Rubadiri

Victoria Rubadiri is an award-winning Kenyan journalist known for her ability to connect with audiences and tell compelling stories. She has worked in radio and television for over a decade, both in Kenya and the United States. Currently, she is a broadcaster on the Kenyan television channel, Citizen TV. Victoria co-anchors the popular primetime news programme Sunday Live and anchors the Citizen Weekend news bulletin. Victoria has also appeared as a regular contributor on the BBC World Service’s radio programme Weekend, helping contextualise pressing matters impacting Africa. Her first voice-over was at the age of three and since then, the call to enter the media has never let her go. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
She has become a much sought-after journalist, and has also moderated high-level discussions, where topics have ranged from business to climate change and gender issues.

Panellist
Dionne Jackson-Miller

Dionne Jackson-Miller is a journalist, attorney at law and a tutor in Constitutional Law at the University of the West indies, Mona. Dione has a background in sciences with a BSc in Botany and Zoology, and an MPhil in Zoology. She has a post-graduate Certificate specialising in Media Law, a post-graduate diploma in Public International Law and a Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of London specialising in Human Rights Law.

Dionne has been working in media for over 20 years. She has hosted a daily current affairs programme “Beyond the Headlines” on Radio Jamaica for over 20 years, and a weekly current affairs programme “All Angles” on Television Jamaica for over 10 years. She is a two-time Journalist of the Year, served two terms as President of the Press Association of Jamaica, and continues to serve on the Association’s Executive.

Panellist
Dr Sa'eed Husaini

Sa’eed Husaini is a researcher on the UCRI-GCFR funded project on Migration, Urbanization, and Conflict (MUCA) at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He completed a DPhil in International Development at the University of Oxford in 2019. His research interest lie in the political economy of democratization in Africa. He focuses on political parties and the roles and impacts of political ideas. His policy and consulting work covers elections, institutional change, and security in Nigeria and the West African sub-region. He has worked at the Freedom of the Press Africa as a Research Analyst, and is a commentator on Nigeria’s #EndSars movement.

Panellist
Julfikar Ali Manik

Julfikar Ali Manik is a Bangladeshi journalist based in Dhaka. He is a reporter with a passion for investigative journalism. In addition to working for Bangla and English language national dailies, news weeklies, television and radio networks in Bangladesh, he has regularly reported for The New York Times since 2004.

His freelance work covers several international newspapers and TV channels including: American PBS, British Channel 4, Al-Jazeera English, Netherlands NOS, British Weekly Mail on Sunday and Outlook India.

He received several professional awards including the SOPA Award in 2017, which was given for his extensive reporting on the tragic attack at a Dhaka bakery along with three other New York Times journalists. In 2014, he won the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award. In May 2013, he won the Sidney Award along with New York Times journalists for extensive coverage of the collapse of Rana Plaza apparel factory near Dhaka that trapped, injured and killed hundreds of factory workers. He was the Dart Asia Pacific Fellow in 2013. Julfikar also won a UNESCO-Bangladesh Journalism Award in 2009; Bangladesh Press Institute (PIB) Award in 2001 and Transparency International (TIB) Awards in 2001, 2009 and 2014. Julfikar has authored two books – one on reports investigating disappearances and killings during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and the second on the military trial after the killing of Bangladesh’s first military ruler in 1981.

In the span of an almost three-decade long career, Julfikar has covered diverse issues ranging from politics, Islamic militancy and terrorism, religious intolerance, the Rohingya crisis, corruption, war crimes, military, legal and traumatic issues.

Discussion
Location
Kigali, Rwanda
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