The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) endorses a call by a newly formed network of Sri Lankan journalists in exile urging Sri Lanka’s Government to take immediate action to end the safety and censorship crisis confronting journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka.
A statement issued on July 22 by Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) highlights unprecedented levels of self-censorship in the Sri Lankan media as a result of intimidation, harassment and violence against the media, both during the war between the Government’s forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and since the war ended.
Since the election of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) to power in 2004 with the current President Mahinda Rajapaksa as its prime minister, 33 journalists and media workers, as well as one entertainer, have been killed, the JDS statement said.
JDS notes that the Rajapaksa Government and its authorities have failed to bring the perpetrators of violence against media personnel to justice. More than 50 journalists and media workers have left the country for fear of persecution, according to JDS.
JDS supports an open letter by the International Press Freedom Mission, which includes the IFJ, sent to President Rajapaksa on July 16, in which the mission outlines an 11-point plan to reverse the crisis of press freedom and journalists’ rights in Sri Lanka.
In recent years, Sri Lanka has gained an unenviable reputation as one of the most dangerous countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the world for the journalism profession.
J.S. Tissainayagam, a senior Tamil journalist and former director of the www.outreachSL.com news website, currently awaits a verdict following his trial on charges laid under Sri Lanka’s counter-terrorism legislation in relation to his work as a journalist. The verdict is expected to be delivered on August 31.
Arrested with colleague V. Jesiharan and Jesiharan’s wife, Valarmathi, Tissainayagam is one of few journalists in the world to be accused of terrorism on the basis of his journalistic work.
“Impunity for violence directed against journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka must end,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said. “The campaign of violence and intimidation denies media workers their right to security and to work in safety, and denying ordinary citizens their right to independent and diverse points of view.”
To read the JDS Statement in English, click here
To read the JDS Statement in Sinhala click here
To read the JDS Staetment in Tamil click here
To read the Open Letter to President Rajapaksa click here
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide