The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) today asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate cases
of serious violations of journalists’ rights in Sri Lanka under the cloak of
In a statement to the tenth session
of the UN human rights body in Geneva, the IFJ singled out Sri Lanka as one of
the countries where counter-terrorism measures are used as a disguise to deny
journalists their rights “through arbitrary arrest and detention for exercising
their right to freedom of expression”.
The statement, which was endorsed by
Article 19, the International Press Institute and the World Association of
Newspapers, was delivered in the council’s session “on the promotion and
protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”.
The IFJ requested the Council to
initiate a formal investigation into the application of anti-terror legislation
in the case of senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainyagam, who has been in detention
in Sri Lanka for just over a year, accused of terrorism for the content of his
“All States, including Sri Lanka,
must ensure that counter-terrorism legislation does notgive cover to the practice of repression against media and journalists,”
the statement said.
The statement further called on the
Council to support effective implementation of international humanitarian
provisions and UN Security Council Resolution 1738 which provide for protection
of journalists who are working in areas of armed conflict.
“The support of major press freedom
organisations to this statement is a measure of the gravity of the media crisis
in Sri Lanka,”
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
look to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and on
the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while CounteringTerrorism to act
on our joint appeal in Sri
Tissainayagam was detained on March 7
last year by the Terrorist Investigation Division of the Sri Lankan police. He
was held in detention for more than three months without explanation.
On August 25, Tissainayagam
was indicted on three charges under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism
Act (PTA) and Emergency Regulations. The charges refer to the content of
articles he wrote in 2006 and 2007 for a Tamil publication, North Eastern Weekly. He is currently on
The IFJ is deeply worried at the
manner in which States apply counter-terrorism legislation to silence
independent voices. The characteristically ambiguous language and provisions of
too many States’ counter-terrorism legislation allow authorities an opening to
violate the rights of citizens, including journalists, by means of detention
without valid explanation, delayed issue of charges, and the presentation of
evidence based on vague definitions of a crime.
For the text of the IFJ statement, see
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries