Press Release: International Media Delegation, Sri Lanka

Continued surveillance or journalists and media organizations in the north of Sri Lanka must cease, says the international media mission to Sri Lanka.

Surveillance, monitoring and following of journalists are incompatible with a free media and the principles of open government that should underpin the <g class="gr_ gr_33 gr-alert gr_spell ContextualSpelling multiReplace" id="33" data-gr-id="33">100 day</g> reform process.

The international media mission represents the International Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute and International Freedom of Expression Exchange. Its members are Christopher Warren from Australia, Scott Griffen from Austria and Siddharth Varadarajan from India. The Mission is here on the invitation of the Free Media Movement, which is also facilitating the visit.

All journalists acknowledged there have been no cases of over violence since the January 8 elections and that there has been an apparent reduction in threats. However, there remain significant challenges to press freedom including:

·      Self-censorship due to uncertainty about the political future of the country;

·      Restrictions on access to information; and

·      Continued surveillance and monitoring of journalists.

Despite the welcome commitment to Right to Information legislation, there appears to have been tightening of bureaucratic processes that make access to information more difficult and can lead to significant misunderstandings.

There remain significant concerns about the failure to address the impunity surrounding attacks on journalists. Since 2000, 12 media workers have been killed in the North and four are missing, presumed dead.

However, no person has been held responsible for any of these deaths. As part of the reform process, it is essential that full and open investigations are held <g class="gr_ gr_30 gr-alert gr_gramm Grammar multiReplace" id="30" data-gr-id="30">into</g> all these cases.

Newspaper organizations also need to do more to recognize the role they can play in providing a safe and secure working environment.

All media organizations should commit to working together to provide necessary training to entrench professional journalism and the values of free media in the North.