Hate Statements Contribute to Oppression of Media Freedom in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned that statements issued by a parliamentarian will contribute to the oppression of media freedom in Sri Lanka.

On February 1, 2006, the Propaganda Secretary of the Peoples’ Liberation Front (JVP), Mr. Wimal Weerawamsa, spoke in parliament with the intention of inciting hatred against Mr. Lasanatha Wickremetunge, the editor of the Sunday Leader.

Mr. Weerawamsa accused Mr. Wickremetunge of supporting the terrorism actions of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and being a traitor to Sri Lanka. The accusations were inspired by a report discussing an alleged LTTE terror attack on Colombo, which was published in the Sunday Leader.

The IFJ is concerned that such accusations inhibit the media’s responsibility to hold authorities accountable, by obstructing critical reporting and hindering the media’s capacity to question government allegations. Furthermore, unfounded public statements of this nature may result in threats to the life of the journalist, thus contributing to the declining levels of safety for journalists in Sri Lanka.

“Journalists play an important role in forcing those in office to be accountable for their actions. They should not be condemned for performing this role. Mr. Weerawamsa’s statement will have an unacceptable impact upon Sri Lankan journalists’ propensity to voice their opinions freely,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries