Media Prevented from Reporting on Sri Lanka War Casualties

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the actions of government officials in denying photojournalists access to report on casualties of the latest violence between the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, four photographers were barred from entering hospitals where injured army personnel (estimated to be in the hundreds) were reportedly being treated after fighting intensified in the country’s north last week.

The FMM said the restriction reflects a greater growing concern that official statistics of casualties are under-reported by government-appointed military spokesmen.

Government military statements report that the Army has allegedly killed more than 3000 Tamil fighters in 2008. However, the FMM reports verification is limited as the only independent news sources covering the conflict are a small number of foreign wire services and Colombo-based news websites.

“The IFJ joins the FMM in stressing that the public has a right to know exactly what is happening in the conflict, and this knowledge is central to any hope of peaceful resolution in the future,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“By restricting the ability of independent media to cover the war in a manner that accurately reports the numbers of dead and injured, both the LTTE and the Government are undermining press freedom, which is a crucial element of democratic stability.”

The FMM has demanded for almost 15 years that both sides in the conflict permit media personnel to cover the war independently.

The IFJ joins the FMM in urging Sri Lanka’s Government and the LTTE to respect the right to information for all. The Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka campaign, supported by more than 45 press freedom and human rights organisations across the globe, backs local journalists’ organisations in demanding that authorities permit journalists and media workers to do their jobs and report on the conflict without restrictions or fear of personal retribution.

War propaganda impedes people’s right to know the truth. Accurate, impartial and responsible journalism requires freedom of the media and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries