The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplores the recent statements by the commander of the Sri Lankan army, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, which suggest a “blame the victim” attitude with regard to the spate of recent attacks on journalists
According to reports received from the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, General Fonseka made these remarks in an interview published in the July 20 editions of the Sunday Observer newspaper and the Sinhala-language weekly Lakbima.
With reference to the abduction and overnight torture of defence correspondent Keith Noyahr in May 2008, General Fonseka is quoted as saying that if the journalist “has not done anything wrong”, then “he does not have to live in fear”.
General Fonseka continues, “If he has done some damage to our organisation or to a person, especially when he has done something which he is not suppose to do, then it is natural he must be living in fear. If they think that they have done something of that nature the best thing for them is to correct themselves and rectify the mistake".
General Fonseka then proceeds to cast serious aspersions on the professional conduct of journalists and to denounce them as a socially unaccountable professional community that is undeserving of basic freedoms.
The Sri Lankan army commander pours scorn on the community of journalists and denies them the right to protest in matters of professional concern, such as safety.
With respect to the recent attacks and attempts to abduct three widely respected defence correspondents, General Fonseka remarks that these could be the consequences of their “misdeeds”.
The IFJ endorses the FMM view that these remarks by the Sri Lankan army commander leave an impression that the “might of the military is being brought to bear on unarmed and unprotected journalists”.
“Journalists are non-combatants whose protection is an obligation of all the belligerent parties in a conflict, and this obligation must be honoured in word and deed,” IFJ Asia Pacific said.
“We call upon the Sri Lankan army command and the civilian leadership to dissociate themselves from General Fonseka’s statements and ensure that a climate of respect for media rights is created within the uniformed services.”
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries