The International Federation
of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in condemning a campaign of
slander and vilification that has been launched against the leader of the Sri
Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) through state-controlled media.
The IFJ learns from sources
in Sri Lanka that on March 22, the state-controlled ITN channel carried a news
item claiming that it would soon be exposing a “traitor”, while showing
pictures of Gnanasiri Koththigoda, president of the SLWJA in the background.
The anchor-person referred to a number of journalists forced into exile by the
climate of intimidation as “media traitors” and crudely suggested that
Koththigoda was through his news reporting in Colombo, aiding the cause of
secession espoused by sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.
The SLWJA is an IFJ
affiliate of long standing. One of Koththigoda’s predecessors as SLWJA
president, Poddala Jayantha, has been living in exile since January 2010 after
suffering a brutal assault in June the previous year that has left him with
“We are shocked at the
continuing violence of the rhetoric employed by government officials and the
state-owned media outlets, despite the spirited protests of journalists within
Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
As already noted,
the rhetoric began escalating when Sri Lanka’s journalists began a campaign in
January demanding accountability for attacks on the press during the country’s
long civil war against Tamil separatism. It became shriller still after the
U.N. Human Rights Council in March adopted a resolution censuring Sri Lanka for
its failure to act against suspected war crimes during the last phase of the
The IFJ learns that
Koththigoda on March 23, took up the matter of the threatening tone of ITN’s
coverage with Sri Lanka’s Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene. The
minister then reportedly called up ITN’s director for news, Sudarman
Raddeligoda, and obtained an assurance that the attacks would cease. Yet the
attacks have continued according to IFJ sources in Sri Lanka.
“We learn that the ITN news
director was an unsuccessful candidate for parliament on a ruling party ticket
during the last general elections in Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
“His role in unleashing a
torrent of abuse against courageous journalists speak up for the cause of
national reconciliation, speaks of the complete demolition of institutional
autonomy and independence in the atmosphere of triumphalism that has followed
the end of the civil war”.
The IFJ urges the Sri Lankan
authorities to restrain the strident voices being aired through ITN and other
government-controlled media outlets.
“A drastic change in the
tone of the engagement between the government and independent media is long
overdue in Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
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