<font size="2">The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply disturbed by the Sri Lankan police’s allegation that journalist Sampath Lakmal de Silva was a paid military informant at the time of his murder in 2006.
Deputy Inspector General H. W. Prathapasinghe made the allegation to an English-language newspaper on February 17. The allegation follows 18 months of investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID).
De Silva, a freelance journalist for the weekly Sathdina, was reportedly lured from his house by a military officer and shot dead on July 2, 2006. De Silva’s mother, Rupa de Silva, named the military officer with whom de Silva met on the night of his death.
However, the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, said that although the courts had taken up the case eight times, the police had failed to produce any suspects or even to record a statement from the military officer.
The IFJ joins the FMM in expressing extreme concern that State agencies are accusing journalists of being agents of military or opposition groups to cover up extra judicial killings, assaults and arrests. They are also concerned that such unsubstantiated allegations fuel suspicion and distrust among journalists and media workers.
The IFJ and the FMM said they do not condone any involvement of journalists in active party politics or military activities.
They reiterated their condemnation of the murder of de Silva on the fundamental principles of the right to life and the right for journalists and media workers to assemble and propagate information.
“The allegation against Sampath Lakmal de Silva is a serious cause for concern for all journalists in Sri Lanka, particularly if authorities are trying to conceal cover-ups and extrajudicial killings,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“Such accusations aim to destroy a journalist’s credibility. They also foster an environment of fear and distrust which raises the dangers for journalists already contending with attacks intended to undermine respect for their work and their safety.”
The IFJ supports the FMM’s demands that the CID and Sri Lankan police provide substantial evidence for their allegations against de Silva and assure the media and public full transparency in the investigation of his murder.
<font size="2" style="font-weight: bold;">For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919</font>
<font size="2" style="font-style: italic;">The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries</font>