CHRI’s Hazarika urges more civil society engagement by Commonwealth during UK visit

March 6, 2017

Sanjoy Hazarika, Director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), recently held a series of meetings in London with senior officials of the Commonwealth Secretariat, civil society representatives, scholars and journalists focusing on issues related to advancing   the international association’s agenda on human rights, rule of law, media freedom and criminal justice reforms. 

During the visit, Mr. Hazarika met with Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland at Commonwealth Headquarters in the historic Marlborough House to discuss CHRI’s work supporting the development of the Right to Information and police and prison reform. In their hour-long meeting, Mr. Hazarika and Secretary-General Scotland spoke of the need for a more robust engagement with Commonwealth civil society.  

The recently-held “Rule of Law and Human Rights Conference for Parliamentarians”, organized by CHRI and the Commonwealth Secretariat, in partnership with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK and Westminster Foundation for Democracy, also figured in the talks, They agreed on the need to identify opportunities to deepen partnership between CHRI and various units of the Secretariat; opportunities for collaboration were further discussed at the specific units

Mr. Hazarika also participated in a special discussion on “Pressures faced by the Media in South Asia” organized by The Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London. The session was moderated by Rita Payne, former BBC Producer and Board Member of CHRI. The panel also featured Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of the Daily Star of Dhaka, Aftab Arif Siddiqui of the Pakistan Express Tribune, and David Page, formerly of The Guardian. Hazarika opened the discussion, giving examples of the extreme pressures faced by journalists while reporting. Mr. Anam observed that “media pressure was not new, but a worrying current development was the public's lack of faith in them, partly due to journalists allowing themselves to become politicised”. He urged greater introspection by media.

Payne agreed with Anam, commenting that it was “troubling that the media is being used to turn on itself.”

While Page struck a positive note on recent improvements in Sri Lanka, the panel were in agreement that the situation in the region was deteriorating. The speakers also discussed the effects of what was described as the 'tsunami of social media'.