Sri Lanka Court Orders Inquiry into Victimisation of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is

encouraged to learn that Sri

Lanka’s Supreme Court has ordered an inquiry

into the alleged political victimisation and interdiction of eight media

workers in the state-run broadcaster, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation

(SLRC).

 

According to

IFJ affiliates in Sri Lanka,

a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard the petition from eight

employees claiming a severe infringement of their fundamental rights, and

directed a former judicial officer to conduct an inquiry and file a report

within two weeks.

 

Kanchana

Marasinghe and seven other SLRC staff claim that they suffered verbal and

physical abuse at the hands of the corporation chairman and some of his associates

in the days before Sri Lanka’s

presidential election on January 26. This followed the eight’s insistence that SLRC

comply with guidelines laid down by the Election Commissioner on fair coverage

for all candidates contesting the election.

 

Independent

observers have pointed out that despite the strictures of the empowered

authority designated by the Election Commissioner to monitor media coverage and

an order from the Supreme Court that the guidelines be honoured, SLRC’s

coverage was grossly biased toward the incumbent president who was contesting

for a second term.

 

Following

the election, the eight petitioners were placed under suspension and an order

of interdiction issued against them.

 

“We fully

support the eight media workers in their efforts to support the state-owned

broadcaster’s compliance with the Election Commissioner’s guidelines,” IFJ

General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“It is part

of the obligation of a public broadcaster that it should represent all sides

fairly, especially in a matter so vital to the sustenance of the democratic

process as elections. The media workers were well within their rights to insist

that SLRC conform to norms of fairness.”

 

The petition

before the Supreme Court cites the SLRC and three of its senior officials as

respondents. It pleads for an immediate order reversing the interdiction of the

eight petitioners and for restraining senior management from harassing them and

broadcasting any information that may falsely implicate them in wrongdoing.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries