IFJ Deplores Military Commander’s Justification of Attacks on Media

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