IFJ Concerned Over Sri Lankan President's Threat to Use Obsolete Official Secrets Act against Journalist

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries, today expressed grave concerns about the President of Sri Lanka's threat to use the Official Secrets Act against a journalist.

According to newspaper reports, at a closed meeting of 1,000 military and police officials in Colombo on July 26, President Chandrika Kumaratunga accused The Sunday Times reporter, Iqbal Athas, of damaging national security and threatened to use the Act against him.

The threats came after a number of reports by Athas about government plans to purchase a logistics landing craft from Britain.

"The IFJ is extremely concerned that the President's remarks will deter journalists who question government decisions and promote public debate," said IFJ President Christopher Warren.

"Freedom of information and a free press are vital for accountable and democratic government," said the IFJ President.

"Threatening journalists with outdated laws to stifle reports which are in the public interest is an alarming development and could have a chilling effect on the media," said Warren.

The Act, which is more than 100 years old, carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years if convicted of gathering secret information.

The IFJ calls on the Sri Lankan government to repeal the Official Secrets Act to enact legislation ensuring freedom of information for matters of public interest and protecting journalist's rights.

For further information contact Christopher Warren on +61 411 656 668
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in 110 countries worldwide