According to an IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa threatened Daily Mirror editor Champika Liyanarachchby on April 17 over the newspaper’s coverage of Sri Lanka’s worsening conflict.
“This is another outrageous example of Sri Lankan officials unashamedly seeking to threaten the media into submission, and is simply unacceptable,” said IFJ President Christopher Warren.
The FMM reports Rajapaksa, the brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, complained about the supposed anti-government stance of a Daily Mirror front page story, which the government turning a blind eye to the Karuna faction flaunting its weapons in Pottuvil.
Rajapaksa also warned the government would not protect Liyanarachchby if the story incited the Karuna faction to violence against her.
“This threat is a violation of journalists’ right to work without fear for their personal safety,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.
According to the FMM, Rajapaksa was also allegedly displeased with the Daily Mirror’s coverage of the treatment of Sri Lanka’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in army-run camps.
“If Sri Lankans are being mistreated by factional groups or the military, then the newspapers have both the right and need to publicise that information,” Warren said.
“This is yet another example of the heavy-handed meddling by Sri Lankan authorities that is severely limiting Sri Lankan press freedom,” Warren said.
Rajapaksa’s threats come four days after the FMM reported health minister Nimal Siripala De Silva publicly stated that Sri Lanka’s media show symptoms of rabies and need urgent inoculation in hospital.
“These intolerable and slanderous comments further undermine the important role Sri Lanka’s media have in holding their politicians accountable,” Warren said.
FMM reports that De Silva’s comments may have resulted from recent investigative reports alleging gross corruption in De Silva’s health ministry.
“A responsible minister would be open to public accountability, allowing for informed media criticism,” Warren said.
“The IFJ deplores the behaviour of both defence secretary Rajapaksa and health minister De Silva and demands no further interference by government officials in Sri Lanka’s free media,” Warren said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries