Global Media Rights Groups Condemn Culture of Impunity and Indifference in Sri Lanka

 

 

The

International Press Freedom Mission

today condemned a "culture of impunity and indifference" over

killings and attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka. Since the beginning of 2009, the killing of a senior editor and the attack on

the facilities of a popular independent TV channel have led to a total

paralysis of the media community.

 

Launching

a new report, Media Under Fire: Press Freedom Lockdown in Sri Lanka, the International

Mission criticised Sri Lanka’s

Government over its inaction and failure to take the attacks, murder and

assassination of reporters seriously. This has in turn led to an almost total

blackout of independent and objective reporting from the North and East of Sri

Lanka, which have seen the worst of

the country’s long-running civil war.

 

"In

all the cases of attacks against media and assassinations of reporters, there are few serious investigations by the

authorities and none of the killers are ever brought to trial," the International

Mission said in a joint statement.

"A

hostile environment of intolerance propelled forward by the top political

leadership has created a culture of impunity and indifference, making every day hunting season for attacks on

media staff."

 

Based

on its visit to Sri Lanka in October 2008, the International Mission noted

three trends relating to the coverage of the conflict: lack of press access and

independent information flow in the conflict zones; a wave of assaults and

intimidation of journalists covering the conflict; and self-censorship by the

media on the realities of the war.

 

Since

the mission took place, the

situation for media has continued to deteriorate in Sri Lanka.

 

On January 6, 2009, the

studio of the Maharaja Television/Broadcasting Network (MTV/MBC) was attacked

by armed gunmen. On January 8,

Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of The Sunday Leader,

was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle as he drove to work in Colombo. On January 15,

police began a widespread search for MTV Channel 1 Chief Chevaan Daniel after

accusations of him being behind the attack on his station.

 

According

to the findings of the International

Mission, reporters and editors

conveying messages that are critical of the Government’s war against the Liberation

Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are labelled as "traitors" and

"terrorists" and they work in an increasingly hostile environment of

censorship and fear.

 

The

International Mission is shocked at the repeated instances of elected

representatives and Government Ministers using violent and inflammatory

language against media workers and institutions. Not surprisingly this has

led to widespread self-censorship among journalists in order to protect their

lives.

 

"The

killing of Lasantha and the deaths of at least eight other journalists, along with two disappeared since 2007, illustrates in painful detail just how journalists

and media staff continue to suffer for their profession,"

the International Mission said.

 

"Without

a proper investigation into Lasantha’s assassination and the attack on MTV, there will be no chance at all for the Government

to claim that it assumes responsibility to guarantee the basic safety and

independence of media."

 

We

urge Sri Lanka’s

Government to accept the creation of an international commission and to

investigate the two recent attacks in line with requests by Sri Lankan

journalists and media institutions. As a group,

the International Mission will offer

its assistance to form this commission and to participate in the investigation.

 

Notes to the editors

 

Since 2006, the International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka has conducted three missions to Sri Lanka. The

most recent mission in October 2008 included representatives from the following

international media organisations:

o        International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

o        International

Media Support (IMS)

o        ?International

Press Institute (IPI)

o        ?International

News Safety Institute (INSI)

o        ?Reporters

Without Borders (RSF)

 

For more information contact:

Vincent

Brossel, Reporters Without Borders, on: + 33 1 44 83 84 70


Sukumar Muralidharan, International Federation of Journalists, on: +91 124

405 6719

Robert

Shaw, International Media Support,

on: + 1 347 575 8746

 

To read the full report, click here:

2008 Mission Report - Media Under Fire - Press Freedom Lockdown in Sri Lanka.pdf

  

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in

120 countries worldwide