Threats and Sackings Highlight Censorship in Sri Lanka, Says IFJ

Threats against a prominent political

cartoonist in Sri Lanka over

a cartoon published on December 7 in the weekly Lanka yet again highlight theinsidious nature of efforts to impose censorship in Sri Lanka,

according to the International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

 

Winnie

Hettigoda, who is also a writer and television producer, received repeated threats

by phone on the evening of December 7 warning he had no right to draw the

cartoon, according to the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Working

Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), both IFJ affiliates.

 

Hettigoda

lodged a complaint with the Koswatta police station. However, it is understood

that police have not investigated the threats.

 

Threats

against several cartoonists for mainstream newspapers have been commonplace in

recent years, according to the FMM and SLWJA.

In another effort to enforce

censorship in Sri Lanka

this week, two editors of the state-run Sunday

Observer and Daily News were

removed from their positions on December 9.

According

to the FMM, the demotions of Dinesh Weerawansa and Pramod de Silva were linked

to the publication on December 7 of remarks by Sri

Lanka’s army chief, Sarath Fonseka, which prompted India to protest to Sri Lanka’s Government.

Fonseka

was cited as saying that India would have no influence on Sri Lanka to restore

a  ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers

of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and it would not listen to the “political jokers” of

Tamil Nadu in India whose “survival depends on the LTTE”.

A

government official refused to confirm whether the removal of Weerawansa and de

Silva was linked to India’s

protest about Fonseka’s published comments, according to the FMM.

“That

editors would be expected to censor the army chief underscores the insidious

character of censorship in Sri

Lanka,” IFJ General

Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“Censorship,

whether through threats against those who seek to express their views freely or

the imposition of harsh sanctions against media personnel required to toe the

government line, is failing the people of Sri Lanka.”

 

The IFJ

joins the FMM and the SLWJA in calling on authorities to investigate promptly the

threats against Hettigoda and to reinstate the two editors to their positions.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide