The Commonwealth Journalists Association has elected a new President, Mahendra Ved, a senior journalist based in New Delhi and the President of the CJA’s India branch.
Mr Ved was elected for a two-year term during the CJA’s conference, held in London from 11-13 April 2016. He writes a column for The New Straits Times in Kuala Lumpur, is the Senior Editor of Power Politics monthly magazine, and is a contributor to All India Radio.
Speaking after his election, the new CJA President said that journalists across the 53 countries of the Commonwealth face “very many challenges”, from reporting in conflict zones to changes to working conditions and contracts.
“Without journalism, there is no democracy and the Commonwealth does swear by democracy and rule of law. This is where journalism comes in,” said Mr Ved on the final day of the CJA conference at a special reception at Marlborough House.
“In very many countries, it is known as the fourth estate. In many countries, people are targeted with a risk to their lives. People who mouth slogans about democracy at the same time target individual journalists or their organisations; they are blackmailed, they are threatened, they are closed down.”
Mr Ved paid tribute to outgoing CJA President Rita Payne who has become CJA President-Emeritus. Ms Payne has been an “inspiration” from her time on BBC Asia Today to her time as CJA President since 2012, he said.
Addressing her colleagues, President-Emeritus Rita Payne said: "The CJA is an important body because it serves as a reference point for journalists who feel threatened or marginalised or simply wish to connect with colleagues in other Commonwealth countries. The association highlights cases of journalists being killed, tortured, abducted or arrested because of their work."
Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, who herself only took office on 1 April, also paid tribute to Ms Payne.
— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) April 11, 2016
Five CJA Vice Presidents - Chris Cobb of Canada, Shyamal Dutta of Bangladesh, Fauzia Shaheen of Pakistan, Syed Nahas Pasha of the United Kingdom, and Chief Foanyi Paul Akemayang of Cameroon were also elected to the CJA executive.
The Secretary-General said the new CJA executive would be starting the journey with her to make a difference for the Commonwealth’s 2.2 billion people. “You are the salt which flavours our democracy and, if salt has no flavour, no power, no piquancy, no bite, then it makes our food tasteless,” she said.
Read the Secretary-General’s speech to the opening of the CJA conference on 11 April.
Find out more about the Commonwealth Journalists Association conference.
Photo caption: (left to right) Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC; Commonwealth Journalists Association's new President, Mahendra Ved; Editor of Curry Life Magazine & Festival, Syed Belal Ahmed