The Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) was launched on 3 February 2009 at a conference at Chatham House, the UK’s leading international affairs institute, entitled Twenty Years After the fall of the Berlin Wall: What happened to Press and Political Freedoms?
CFOM’s International Director William Horsley wrote at the time:
The current age of uncertainty about political systems, economic storms and the survival of the traditional forms of media call exactly for what CFOM will be doing: forming research networks and working with others to bring a more well-founded understanding of the role that the media must play for open societies to work and in letting democracies thrive… CFOM has a bold ambition: to treat the media’s role as a proper subject of study for political scientists. Now more than ever before the media, in their countless forms and platforms, must be seen as an integral part of the system of governance for countries, and even of wider structures of international relations.
Read the International Director’s Journey to CFOM commentary here.
The keynote speaker at CFOM’s inaugural event, Jens Reich, former leader of the New Forum pro-democracy movement in East Germany, said:
Freedom of thought and its expression in public is not guaranteed to every citizen in this post-1990 Europe. Some have even paid for their lives for exercising these rights…I would like to see journalists and intellectuals everywhere exert pressure on their own diplomats and politicians to ensure that they remind their partners over there [in the former Soviet Union] at every opportunity about the broken promises to allow freedom of the media. Even if they hear such complaints with a poker face and repeat the excuse that it is not their responsibility, it will be hard for them to listen to this sermon repeated time after time. It may in time success in changing attitudes for the better. That is what we finally experienced in the ‘80s in the Year of Revolutions. I welcome the fact that this meeting will be discussing these burning questions, and I wish you every success.
At the time of the launch of CFOM Sir Tom Stoppard, the celebrated Czech-born playwright and advocate for press and political freedoms, said:
Free media are not the inertia state of modern society: the inertia state is one of controlled media. Without organisations like CFOM and events like today’s conference at Chatham House, the fallback will always be towards a diminution of freedom in the media and thence to the diminution of freedom in everything else.
In June 2011 Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and then chairman of ‘The Elders’ (a group of elder statesmen working together for peace and universal human rights), sent this Open Message on the occasion of the conference on Safety and Protection of Journalists: A Responsibility for the World which the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) co-hosted with the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism (CLJJ) at City University London:
In the struggle against apartheid, journalists willing to report the truth were among our most important allies, and we knew that they often took great personal risks to do so. The right of journalists to report freely is of vital importance to people in all parts of the world, and those who use violence, assassination or detention to try and intimidate journalists must be held accountable for their actions. The high toll of deaths and injuries among media workers around the world in recent years is outrageous and unacceptable. I appeal to governments everywhere to ensure that law-enforcement and judicial authorities protect journalists’ rights and take action to end impunity for such crimes.
Read Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Appeal to the Conference here.