* Below is a letter sent by IFJ General Secretary Aidan White to Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on March 16, 2010*
His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa
President of Sri Lanka
Protection for Human Rights Campaigners and Journalists
Federation of Journalists (IFJ) wishes to draw your immediate attention and
concern to the circulation of a list of journalists, human rights campaigners
and other prominent individuals in Sri Lanka. There is a lack of
clarity about the list’s origins and purpose, but there are reports it was compiled
by state intelligence agencies.
Given the trend of violence,
intimidation and threats against members of Sri Lanka’s press freedom and human
rights communities, the list and its purpose are of significant concern. The
IFJ understands the list has been in circulation in Colombo since before the presidential
election on January 26.
Under Sri Lanka’s national law, state
intelligence agencies are directly under your authority. The IFJ therefore respectfully
requests Your Excellency to take prompt action to investigate the source of the
list, and ensure those named on it are afforded full protection.
A recent report in Lanka News Web reported the list contains
an apparent rating system and includes a number of names accompanied by a brief
summary of the individuals’ professional history. The Lanka News Web report suggests the ranking system pertains to
levels of public activity and campaigning around human rights and democracy
issues in Sri Lanka.
Copies of the list have been obtained by several diplomatic missions in Colombo.
On March 9, the Five Media
Organisations jointly expressed concern about an alert from the Asian Human
Rights Commission (AHRC) of unofficial reports of the imminent arrest of
Transparency International Sri Lanka
(TISL) Executive Director Mr J.C. Weliamuna. Mr Weliamuna reportedly is ranked highly
on the list. The IFJ understands that Mr Weliamuna and other individuals on the
list have written to you directly to seek clarity on this matter.
The IFJ requests that your office publicly
explains whether the list is an official document, sanctioned under your
authority or undertakes to investigate the matter in full. We seek an assurance
that Sri Lankan authorities will not seek to intimidate and deter those named
on the list and other independent voices ahead of national elections in
The IFJ asks that you use your
authority to provide immediate safety and protection measures to all
individuals named on the list, and to note that state authorities must be held
accountable if any harm comes to these individuals.
The IFJ respectfully reminds you as
the leader of a democratic nation of your responsibility and duty to ensure diverse
views, independent information and coverage of the upcoming election process are
available to the Sri Lankan public. This would considerably strengthen and
deepen the process of national reconciliation that you have repeatedly stated
as your main priority.
IFJ General Secretary
International Federation of Journalists
Rue de la Loi 155
Telephone: 32-2-235 22 00
Telefax: 32-2-235 22 19