We, the leaders
and representatives of journalists’ associations and trade unions in the
Asia-Pacific region meeting in Hong Kong on 12-13 February 2009, express our
deepest concern over continuing violations of media rights in Sri Lanka, and
call on Sri Lanka’s Government to uphold the law and live up to its responsibilities.
We note that
an already bad situation for the media in Sri Lanka has turned markedly worse in
2009, with the murder of prominent editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, an arson
attack on the facilities of independent broadcaster Sirasa TV, a knife attack
on a newspaper editor and his wife, and continuing verbal threats by ministers
and other senior government members directed against journalists and media
workers. Several of Sri
Lanka’s most well-known journalists have
left the country fearing for their lives.
1, the Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, issued a warning that foreign
media organisations would face “dire consequences” and be “chased out” of the
country if they did not behave “responsibly”. He accused three international
news organisations in particular of partisan reporting on the situation
regarding civilian casualties and suffering in areas of conflict between
government forces and Tamil separatist insurgents.
information about the harsh realities of the war in Sri Lanka is due to the Army’s ban on
media personnel entering areas of conflict. We therefore demand that Sri Lanka’s
Government allow journalists access to these areas.
the Prime Minister, 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.
alarmed to learn that the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) has blocked
BBC World Service programs that it was contracted to carry over its FM
channels. Between November 27 and early January, there were reportedly 17 cases
of the BBC Tamil language broadcast being blocked or interfered with. The BBC Sinhala
service recorded eight such instances. With formal protests having no substantive
effect, the BBC suspended its programming for the SLBC, effective February 10.
In January, Sri Lanka’s Defence spokesman urged journalists
in Sri Lanka
to inform authorities about what he described as “suspicious activities” by
fellow journalists. Defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella was reported in
local media on January 23 to have called on "journalists and all those
attached to media organisations … to be vigilant about those who enter the
media field”. He asked journalists to report “any person who appears
reportedly asked journalists to help in apprehending cadre of the insurgent
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who he alleged are “moving about in
the guise of journalists”.
efforts by Sri Lankan government officials to recruit journalists into a witch-hunt.
We affirm our conviction that the role of journalists is to report all sides,
fairly and accurately, without fear or favour.
our deep concern that several of the journalists who have recently been forced
into exile have been directly threatened by people holding senior positions in
the Government and the Sri Lankan security services.
we continue to condemn the detention and trial of senior journalist J.S.
Tissanayagam, who has been held in detention since March 2008, and is currently
being tried on terrorism charges. Tissanayagam’s charges refer to the content
of his journalistic work.
our solidarity with the five main bodies of journalists in Sri Lanka: the
Free Media Movement (FMM), the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association
(SLWJA), the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions (FMETU), the Sri Lanka
Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) and the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA).
coalition of organisations should be strengthened and allowed to operate in an
environment free from fear, in the wider cause of press freedom and the public
right to know.
Signed by leaders of the following
organisations, in Hong Kong for the regional
meeting of IFJ Asia-Pacific:
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI)
All India Newspaper Employees
Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ)
Cambodian Association for Protection
of Journalists (CAPJ)
Engineering, Printing and
Manufacturing Union, New Zealand (EPMU)
Federation of Media Employee’s Trade
Free Media Movement (FMM)
Federation of Nepali Journalists
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Indian Journalists Union
Journalists’ Association of Korea (AJK)
National Union of Journalists, Malaysia (NUJM)
Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA)
Nepal Press Union
National Union of Journalists (India)
National Union of Journalists, Nepal
National Union of Journalists of the
Sri Lanka Working Journalists
UNI Global Union
United Confederation of Mongolian
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries