IFJ Protests Over Crackdown on Free Expression in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Journalists has protested to the Government of Sri Lanka over the security investigation into political columnist and journalist Upal Joseph Fernando, after an anti-Christian extremist group filed a formal complaint against Fernando for allegedly writing a defamatory leaflet against Buddhists.


The IFJ asks the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that opposition voices are not silenced in the wake of the current religious tension in that country.


The IFJ has protested to the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in the following letter:


29 January 2004


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 the allegations against freelance journalist and political columnist, Upal Joseph Fernando.


According to our information, in December 2004 an anti-Christian extremist group filed a formal complaint against Fernando to the police claiming that Fernando authored a defamatory leaflet against Buddhists.


The complaint has since motivated an investigation from the Criminal Investigation Bureau. We understand Fernando was questioned in a threatening way at the Police Criminal Investigation Section on 19 January.


The IFJ believes that it is inappropriate for the Police’s Criminal Investigation section to carry out such an investigation. The IFJ maintains that these charges are politically motivated in an effort to silence journalists who attempt to offer an alternate view on the situation in Sri Lanka.


The IFJ urges the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the current religious tension in Sri Lanka not be used as an excuse to intimidate journalists.


Yours sincerely




Christopher Warren

IFJ President



Recommended Action:


Send appeals to the Government of Sri Lanka


  • Condemning the investigation into Upal Joseph Fernando

  • Urging the Government to ensure that freedom of expression does not suffer due to religious tensions.

  • 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-asia@alliance.org.au


    For more information please contact IFJ Asia at ifj-asia@alliance.org.au