IFJ Says Hate Speech Attacks in Sri Lanka “particularly worrisome and dangerous”

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned about recent death threats and public hate speech attacking journalists in Sri Lanka.

“The labelling of independent journalists as being politically aligned in such a fragile political environment like Sri Lanka is a particularly worrisome and dangerous business,” IFJ president Christopher Warren said.

On May 16, 2006, a group of journalists representing the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum and the IFJ, met with the leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to protest calls for the resignation of Tamil journalists from state-run media.

The IFJ is worried by reports that journalists associated with this positive and constructive meeting have received death threats and public attacks through media reports from various groups.

“The IFJ is particularly concerned that the public naming of individual journalists is a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate these journalists into silence and inaction,” said Warren.

The journalists named in the media reports were: Sunanda Deshapriya and Sitha Ranjanee of the Free Media Movement; Poddala Jayanthe of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association; Dharmasiri Lankapeli of Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions and Prasanna Fonseka.

The IFJ is especially concerned about these developments as similar public attacks occurred in the lead up to the brutal murder of journalist Darnarathnam Sivaram in April last year.

“Unfounded public attacks such as these may result in direct threats on lives of those journalists, thus contributing to the declining levels of safety for journalists in Sri Lanka,” Warren said.

The IFJ calls on the government of Sri Lanka to ensure it provides stringent and effective protection for journalists.

It further calls on all parties to respect the independence of journalists and the media and to immediately halt hate speech and threats against journalists.

“The IFJ expresses its utmost support and solidarity with the journalists of Sri Lanka, and we send a clear message to those who seek to intimidate, threaten or harm members of the media that the world journalistic community is watching.”

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries