The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes reports that attacks against journalists and media workers at the state-owned Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) television station have ceased since March 20.
However, the IFJ continues to hold grave concerns for the safety and well-being of J.S Tisseinayagam, the editor of www.outreachsl.com, who has been detained since being taken into custody by officers of the Terrorist Information Department (TID) on March 7.
Tisseinayagam was initially detained under emergency regulations for 30 days. On April 1, the Colombo Magistrates Court granted a TID request to extend the detention order to May 5, after the Supreme Court ruled against an application for bail on March 31.
It is understood that no charge has been laid against Tisseinayagam.
The IFJ and its affiliates, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Sri Lankan Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA) and the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Union (FMETU), as well as the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) and Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists’ Alliance (SLTJA), demand that authorities make transparent the reasons for detaining Tisseinayagam, as well as N. Jasiharan, the owner of E-Kwality Printers, and follow due legal process.
In the case of SLRC, the IFJ’s affiliates reported a series of attacks against five SLRC staff and other journalists between January 1 and March 20. The attacks allegedly targeted journalists and others who witnessed or reported on an incident at SLRC’s office involving Labour Minister Mervyn Silva assaulting the station’s news director on December 27, 2007.
At a specially convened meeting with representatives of government-owned media institutions and government members on March 17, Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, pledged to act to ensure the attacks and intimidation of SLRC workers ended.
The President’s commitment was regarded by the IFJ as a welcome intervention by a government that otherwise has demonstrated a lack of regard and respect for the working conditions and rights of journalists and media institutions to report freely and critically.
However, the IFJ remains concerned about SLRC’s capacity to report freely and fairly in the public interest under the authority of a recently retired general, Sunil Silva, who was appointed by the Government as SLRC’s Additional Deputy Director General of Administration on March 20.
With these concerns in mind, more than 40 human rights and press freedom organisations from five continents have joined the IFJ-initiated campaign to Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka and signed a joint letter requesting President Rajapaksa address immediately the failure of Sri Lanka’s authorities to act on threats and attacks against journalists and media workers and to bring those responsible to account.
The IFJ is leading a Global Day of Action on April 10 as part of the campaign to send a message of solidarity and hope to colleagues and friends in Sri Lanka and to urge Sri Lanka’s Government to uphold its obligations to assure journalists of their right to protection and to support press freedom in Sri Lanka.
To read the joint letter, click here
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries