IFJ Alarmed by Threat to Foreign Media in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) strongly decries a warning issued by Sri Lanka’s Defence

Secretary that foreign media organisations would face “dire

consequences” and be “chased out” of the country if they did not behave



Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa

accused three international news organisations - CNN,

Al-Jazeera and the BBC- on February 1 of partisan reporting

on the situation regarding civilian casualties and suffering in areas of

conflict between government forces and Tamil separatist insurgents, according

to news reports.


Rajapaksa also reportedly targeted foreign

diplomatic staff and international non-government organisations, which he suggested

were giving the insurgency by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

(LTTE) undue sustenance at a time when the LTTE was facing decisive defeat.


“The IFJ deplores this effort to

threaten and intimidate foreign media organisations in Sri Lanka. It is

an extension of the pattern of official attitudes toward local media, with the

specific intent of silencing all independent sources of information on which

the public and international community depend,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.


“The IFJ reminds the Defence

Secretary and all other officials in Sri Lanka’s

Government that the public in Sri

Lanka and elsewhere has the right to be

informed, through independent reporting, of the humanitarian consequences of

ongoing military operations.”


The IFJ notes that the Government

has blocked independent access by local and foreign media to the country’s war

zones. Any “misinformation” that may exist is a consequence of the Government’s

decision to curtail media access to the war zones.


“The IFJ has strongly pressed the

case for unfettered media access in the areas in the north of the country where

hostilities have been under way for several months,” White said.


Rajapaksa’s warning comes as a sharp

deterioration in the media freedom environment in Sri Lanka over the past month

coincides with the Government claiming its most significant successes in the

country’s long-running civil war.


A climate of anxiety now pervades

the local media, and several of Sri

Lanka’s most well-known journalists have

left the country fearing for their lives.


“Sri Lanka’s Government and authorities

are reminded that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 obliges all

states to be aware that the targeting of journalists in situations of armed

conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law,” White added.



calls on all members of Sri

Lanka’s Government to act decisively to end

the campaign of intimidation of local and foreign media, and to acknowledge the

right of citizens to free and fair access to diverse sources of information

about matters of extreme importance to all Sri Lankans.


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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