Joint Statement to the President and Government of Sri Lanka

We, the leaders

and representatives of journalists’ associations and trade unions in the

Asia-Pacific region meeting in Hong Kong on 12-13 February 2009, express our

deepest concern over continuing violations of media rights in Sri Lanka, and

call on Sri Lanka’s Government to uphold the law and live up to its responsibilities.


We note that

an already bad situation for the media in Sri Lanka has turned markedly worse in

2009, with the murder of prominent editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, an arson

attack on the facilities of independent broadcaster Sirasa TV, a knife attack

on a newspaper editor and his wife, and continuing verbal threats by ministers

and other senior government members directed against journalists and media

workers. Several of Sri

Lanka’s most well-known journalists have

left the country fearing for their lives.


On February

1, the Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, issued a warning that foreign

media organisations would face “dire consequences” and be “chased out” of the

country if they did not behave “responsibly”. He accused three international

news organisations in particular of partisan reporting on the situation

regarding civilian casualties and suffering in areas of conflict between

government forces and Tamil separatist insurgents.


However, limited

information about the harsh realities of the war in Sri Lanka is due to the Army’s ban on

media personnel entering areas of conflict. We therefore demand that Sri Lanka’s

Government allow journalists access to these areas.


We remind

the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and all other officials in Sri Lanka’s Government that the public in Sri Lanka and

elsewhere has the right to be informed, through independent reporting, of the

humanitarian consequences of ongoing military operations.


We are

alarmed to learn that the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) has blocked

BBC World Service programs that it was contracted to carry over its FM

channels. Between November 27 and early January, there were reportedly 17 cases

of the BBC Tamil language broadcast being blocked or interfered with. The BBC Sinhala

service recorded eight such instances. With formal protests having no substantive

effect, the BBC suspended its programming for the SLBC, effective February 10.


In January, Sri Lanka’s Defence spokesman urged journalists

in Sri Lanka

to inform authorities about what he described as “suspicious activities” by

fellow journalists. Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella was reported in

local media on January 23 to have called on "journalists and all those

attached to media organisations … to be vigilant about those who enter the

media field”. He asked journalists to report “any person who appears




reportedly asked journalists to help in apprehending cadre of the insurgent

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who he alleged are “moving about in

the guise of journalists”.


We deplore

efforts by Sri Lankan government officials to recruit journalists into a witch-hunt.

We affirm our conviction that the role of journalists is to report all sides,

fairly and accurately, without fear or favour.


We express

our deep concern that several of the journalists who have recently been forced

into exile have been directly threatened by people holding senior positions in

the Government and the Sri Lankan security services.



we continue to condemn the detention and trial of senior journalist J.S.

Tissanayagam, who has been held in detention since March 2008, and is currently

being tried on terrorism charges. Tissanayagam’s charges refer to the content

of his journalistic work.


We underline

our solidarity with the five main bodies of journalists in Sri Lanka: the

Free Media Movement (FMM), the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association

(SLWJA), the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions (FMETU), the Sri Lanka

Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) and the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA).



coalition of organisations should be strengthened and allowed to operate in an

environment free from fear, in the wider cause of press freedom and the public

right to know.


Signed by leaders of the following

organisations, in Hong Kong for the regional

meeting of IFJ Asia-Pacific:


Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI)


All India Newspaper Employees

Federation (AINEF)


Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ)


Cambodian Association for Protection

of Journalists (CAPJ)


Engineering, Printing and

Manufacturing Union, New Zealand (EPMU)


Federation of Media Employee’s Trade

Unions (FMETU)


Free Media Movement (FMM)


Federation of Nepali Journalists



Hong Kong Journalists Association



IFJ Asia-Pacific


Indian Journalists Union



Journalists’ Association of Korea (AJK)


National Union of Journalists, Malaysia (NUJM)


Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)



Rorem, Japan


Nepal Press Union



National Union of Journalists (India)



National Union of Journalists, Nepal



National Union of Journalists of the




Sri Lanka Working Journalists

Association (SLWJA)




UNI Global Union


United Confederation of Mongolian

Journalists (CMJ)


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919



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