The International Federation
of Journalists (IFJ) joins affiliates in Sri Lanka in sharply denouncing the
latest move towards news censorship in by the country’s authorities.
In a letter addressed to
various news and media organisations, the Media Centre for National Security
(MCNS) a body which operates under Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence,
has demanded that "any news related to national security, security forces,
and the police should get prior approval from the MCNS before
The letter is signed by MCNS
Director-General Lakshman Hulugalle and dated March 9. It will apply to all
news alerts issued through text and SMS over the phone network.
Emergency regulations in
force for much of Sri Lanka’s
quarter-century long civil war allowed for prior censorship of news platforms. Since
the lifting of the state of emergency in August 2011, there no longer appears
to be a clear legal sanction for censoring news flows.
The MCNS directive follows
an incident in the north of the country in which three soldiers of the Sri
Lankan army were killed. Rumours soon emerged, suggesting that the insurgent
army that had waged a quarter-century long civil war against the Sri Lankan
government was regrouping. These rumours were soon dispelled by an official
statement clarifying that the incident involved a soldier of the Sri Lankan
army who had shot two colleagues before turning the gun on himself.
There were also news alerts
that were sent out at the same time regarding a police officer being arrested
while demanding a large bribe, and a botched abduction attempt involving
personnel of the armed forces.
Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, has
warned that the MCNS directive could be the first step towards re-imposing a
comprehensive regime of censorship over the media.
“We urge the Sri Lankan
government to reconsider this move, which does little to rebuild an atmosphere
of trust between the country’s ethnic communities after a quarter century of
strife”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.
“The Sri Lankan government
should also be aware that the world is waiting in anticipation for it to
initiate long overdue gestures of reconciliation that would contribute towards
a long-term peace in the island-nation”.
“Yet far from implementing
the comprehensive recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation
Commission (LLRC) -- a body appointed with a mandate from Sri Lanka’s
President -- the Government seems set upon a course of heightened
“We call on the Sri Lankan
government to withdraw the latest moves towards censorship, and urge serious
engagement with all representative bodies to see that the LLRC recommendations,
which include significant measures on freedom of speech and the right to
information, are implemented”.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0950
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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