Army Commander Attempts to Silence Defence Reporting in Sri Lanka

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed at new reports

that Sri Lankan Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka continues to

menace independent media by interfering with defence reporting in two major

newspapers.

 

According to the five leading journalists’ organizations in Sri Lanka,

including IFJ affiliates the Free Media Movement (FMM),

the Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), the Federation of Media

Employees Trade Union (FMETU) as

well as the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) and the Sri Lanka Tamil Media

Alliance (SLTMA), Fonseka reportedly advised Lankadeepa staff journalist Indika Ramanayake that he would refuse

to cooperate with the newspaper if two regular defence columns continued to be

published.

 

Referring to a defence analysis by Duminda Sanjeewa in the Sunday Lankadeepa, and the Sinhala

translation of a security situation column by defence writer Iqbal Athas,

associate editor of the Sunday Times, Fonseka

made the threat when Ramanayake contacted him to obtain defence-related

information on August 5.

 

The five media organisations called Fonseka’s action as an “indirect

intimidation aimed at media censorship,” the FMM

reports.

 

On January 2 in an interview published in the state-controlled Sinhala

daily Dinamina, Fonseka incited

anti-media hate speech after labeling some sections of the media as “traitors”

and the only obstacle hampering the military’s fight to defeat the Liberation

Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

 

In the July 20 edition of the Sunday

Observer newspaper and the Sinhala-language weekly Lakbima, Fonseka was reported as voicing antagonism towards defence

reporters in Sri Lanka,

suggesting a “blame the victim” attitude in relation to the spike of violence

against journalists in 2008.

With

reference to the abduction and overnight torture of defence correspondent Keith

Noyahr in May 2008, General Fonseka is quoted as saying that if the journalist

“has not done anything wrong”, then “he does not have to live in fear”.

“It is deplorable that high ranking Sri Lankan officials like Fonseka

find it appropriate to use their positions to attempt to change editorial

policy to shape the messages the media sends out,” the IFJ

Asia-Pacific said.

 

“These threats simply undermine free and independent journalism at a time

when the people of Sri Lanka

desperately need it.”

 

The IFJ joins the FMM, SLWJA, FMETU, SLMMA and SLTMA in once again calling on the

government to ensure the cessation of violence and intimidation against the

media.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 in 122 countries worldwide