The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its
affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), in calling on Sri Lanka’s Government to explain chilling and inflammatory
statements by Sri Lanka’s
Defence Secretary suggesting independent media should be prevented from running
reports allegedly detrimental to the security forces.
The Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who
is the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was quoted in a local newspaper
calling for the ban and alleging that critical media reports amount to treason.
has made a series of anti-media comments last year and early this year in
response to media reportage with which he disagrees, including reports about
civilian war casualties.
reported call for a media ban follows another public attack by the Defence
Ministryon Iqbal Athas, defence
correspondent for The Sunday Times.
According to the FMM, an article published on the ministry’s
website on World Press Freedom Day on May 3 accused Athas of bias toward the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in his coverage of the latest clash
between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army. The article accuses Athas of “misleading
the public”, intending to demoralise troops and promoting “terrorist” propaganda.
In September 2007, Athas’s
security was withdrawn and senior government figures launched a hate campaign
against him after Athas wrote an investigative report on a multi-million-dollar
MiG-27 attack aircraft purchase involving government officials. In October, the Defence Ministry
accused Athas of assisting the LTTE in psychological warfare operations.
The IFJ and
the FMM unequivocally condemn
the Defence Secretary’s statements and the Government’s “naming and shaming”
of journalists who report in the public interest.
The IFJ joins the FMM in seeking
urgent clarification from the Government and the President about the Defence
Secretary must be held accountable for his words and reined in. Independent
media today faces unprecedented challenges in Sri Lanka in the pursuit of
accurate, responsible and impartial journalism. Sadly, the most significant of
them come from the Government in the South,” the FMM said in a statement.
The IFJ reminds the Government that all complaints about
media coverage, including complaints made by the Government, must be processed
through appropriate mediatory channels.
“The IFJ has repeatedly asked Sri Lanka’s Government to stop the war on
journalists in Sri Lanka,”
said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park. “The Government may disagree
with claims made by journalists, but it has no right to provoke hatred and endanger
the lives of journalists and media workers with inflammatory comments.”
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents
over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries