Violence and Harassment of Media Mark Sri Lanka Election Campaign

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) notes

with concern that the campaign for Sri Lanka’s presidential election

due to take place tomorrow has been marked by a high degree of harassment of

media personnel and occasional acts of violence.

 

In the most

recent instance of harassment, a busload of media personnel going to the venue

of a meeting between opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka and former president

Chandrika Kumaratunge was detained by police and questioned about the purpose

of their trip. Permitted to proceed after questioning, the journalists were

stopped again at another point and again put through a round of interrogation.

 

“The IFJ sees

an effort here to prevent coverage of a key meeting, which resulted in the

former president endorsing Fonseka’s candidacy,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“This latest

incident conforms to a broad pattern by which the authorities have sought to

tilt the balance of electoral advantage through the use of state media and intimidation

of independent media.”

 

The IFJ expressed

concern recently over the skewed coverage of the campaign at the hands of state

media, with incumbent President Mahinda Rajapakse favoured with an inordinately

high proportion of media time and space.

 

Early in the

campaign, a news crew from state-controlled broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini

Corporation (SLRC) was attacked at an opposition rally.

 

In later

weeks, independent news reporters suffered injury and loss when violence broke

out in the aftermath of election campaign events.

 

“We condemn

all such acts of violence and regret that the authority of the independent

election watchdog, which is empowered to oversee the fair allocation of time

over state-owned broadcast channels, was flagrantly flouted,” White said.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries