IFJ Calls on UN to Investigate Press Freedom Violations in Sri Lanka

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

countering terrorism.

 

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

writing. 

 

“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.

 

“We

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

Lanka.”

 

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

trial.

 

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

IFJ Text Statement HRC Mar09.pdf

 

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries