The Sri Lankan Government’s reported efforts to deny media personnel access to report on council elections in the island’s Eastern Province undermines democratic election processes, said the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, two Associated Press (AP) media personnel were stopped at a checkpoint in the eastern town of Valaichchenai and ordered to return to Colombo immediately.
Military authorities allegedly told journalist Ravi Nesman and photographer Gemunu Amarasinghe that they required special permission to cover the elections, due to be held on May 10.
The FMM reports that the Ministry of Defence reversed its decision after journalists’ rights groups and election monitoring groups demanded an explanation of why no government authority had provided information on the new restriction or how to obtain permission to cover the elections.
The journalists have since been allowed to re-enter the province.
“The IFJ is concerned that authorities made an arbitrary decision outside the rule of law to harass and intimidate media personnel whose work to report on the elections serves the democratic rights of the Sri Lankan public,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“Election and political reporting is a key responsibility of journalists as guardians of the public’s right to information.”
The IFJ joins the FMM in requesting that all government authorities extend the fullest cooperation and protection to local and foreign journalists covering the elections.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries