March 16, 2018 - Updated on March 21, 2018

RSF urges UK to prioritise safety of journalists in Commonwealth Chairmanship

One month ahead of the UK assuming Chairmanship of the Commonwealth in April 2018, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary General Christophe Deloire has written to Prime Minister Theresa May in a letter dated 16 March urging her to prioritise the promotion of safety of journalists during the UK’s two-year mandate.

Journalists, citizen journalists, and media workers around the world have faced growing threats to their safety in recent years, with more than 700 journalists killed over the past decade in connection with their work, far too often with impunity. This alarming trend is all too present throughout the Commonwealth states.

In the letter to May, RSF outlines recent cases of violence against journalists in Commonwealth states, including the murders in 2017 of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta; Gauri Lankesh, Navin Gupta, Shantanu Bhowmick, and Sudip Datta Bhaumik in India; and Abdul Hakim Shimul in Bangladesh. The letter also highlights the abductions of journalists Charles Etukuri in Uganda and Azori Gwanda in Tanzania, both of whom remain missing, and the attempted armed kidnapping of Taha Siddiqui in Pakistan, as well as a string of attacks in Trinidad and Tobago, including assaults on Guardian journalists Kristian De Silva and Sascha Wilson.

“Violent attacks against journalists are taking place with alarming frequency across the Commonwealth. We call on the UK to take leadership on this crucial issue during its Chairmanship, to reaffirm the Commonwealth’s Charter commitment to freedom of expression and provide much-needed protection to journalists reporting information in the public interest”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states spanning Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific, most of which are former territories of the British Empire. The Commonwealth’s commitment to freedom of expression is affirmed in its Charter, and has been declared as a focus of the forthcoming Commonwealth Summit agenda on promoting respect for the rule of law, good governance, and access to justice for all. The UK will take over Chairmanship at the Heads of Government Meeting starting 16 April 2018.

The full text of the letter is available to download below.