IFJ Protests Against Government Pressure on Media Outlets in Sri Lanka

13 November 2003


Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga

President

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Presidential Secretariat

Colombo-1, Sri Lanka

Fax: +94 1 333 703


Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghae

Prime Minister

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

58 Sri Ernest de SilvaMwatha,

Colombo –7

Sri Lanka

Fax: +94 1 422073 542929

pasec@sltnet.lk



Dear President and Prime Minister


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, is deeply concerned over media freedom and safety of journalists in your country at this time.


The IFJ understands that the Government has withdrawn the emergency law put in place on 5 November, but remains deeply concerned about respect for the independence of media and the free flow of information in Sri Lanka.


The IFJ is concerned at reports that editors and senior journalists have been replaced at state-owned media since the President assumed the responsibility for the Information Ministry. We believe that this is part of an ongoing pattern and that these actions underline a deep and continuing flaw in Sri Lanka’s state-owned media: that there is no protection from political influence for these media outlets.


We do not level this criticism solely in the current situation: the IFJ has repeatedly criticised the tradition of appointing political supporters of the governing party to editorial posts of state media.


The fact that the heads of the state media units have again now been replaced on the basis of political bias sends an unacceptable message to both the media and the public that these institutions are merely the mouthpieces for whoever assumes power in Sri Lanka.


We are also concerned over the possible political intimidation journalists might face as they report on national politics.


The IFJ stresses the importance of a well-informed public and the fundamental right to information in times like these. It is the role of an independent media to ensure that the general public can make informed decisions that have not been unduly influenced by any party.


The public of Sri Lanka has an absolute right to receive information from the state-owned media free from political influence. We therefore call on the Government if Sri Lanka to withdraw from the editorial process in the state-owned media by establishing a truly independent media commission to oversee these media outlets.


In that same vein, the IFJ calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to remember the vital importance of a free press in building democracy and to ensure the safety of all journalists in Sri Lanka in these uncertain times.


Yours sincerely




Christopher Warren

IFJ President




Recommended Action:


Send appeals to the Government of Sri Lanka


  • Calling on the Government to democratise state media

  • Urging the Government to support an informed general public

  • Urging the Government to establish an independent media commission to oversee state-owned media

  • Urging the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure press freedom and safety of all journalists working in Sri Lanka


    Appeals:


    Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga

    President,

    Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

    Presidential Secretariat

    Colombo-1, Sri Lanka

    Fax: +94 1 333 703


    Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghae

    Prime Minister

    Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

    58 Sri Ernest de SilvaMwatha,

    Colombo –7

    Sri Lanka

    Fax: +94 1 422073 542929

    pasec@sltnet.lk



    Please copy appeals to the IFJ Asia Office at ifj@ifj-asia.org


    For more information please contact Jacqui Park at the IFJ Asia Office.