The International Federation of
Journalists (IFJ) strongly decries a warning issued by Sri Lanka’s Defence
Secretary that foreign media organisations would face “dire
consequences” and be “chased out” of the country if they did not behave
Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa
accused three international news organisations - CNN,
Al-Jazeera and the BBC- on February 1 of partisan reporting
on the situation regarding civilian casualties and suffering in areas of
conflict between government forces and Tamil separatist insurgents, according
to news reports.
Rajapaksa also reportedly targeted foreign
diplomatic staff and international non-government organisations, which he suggested
were giving the insurgency by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE) undue sustenance at a time when the LTTE was facing decisive defeat.
“The IFJ deplores this effort to
threaten and intimidate foreign media organisations in Sri Lanka. It is
an extension of the pattern of official attitudes toward local media, with the
specific intent of silencing all independent sources of information on which
the public and international community depend,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“The IFJ reminds the Defence
Secretary and all other officials in Sri Lanka’s
Government that the public in Sri
Lanka and elsewhere has the right to be
informed, through independent reporting, of the humanitarian consequences of
ongoing military operations.”
The IFJ notes that the Government
has blocked independent access by local and foreign media to the country’s war
zones. Any “misinformation” that may exist is a consequence of the Government’s
decision to curtail media access to the war zones.
“The IFJ has strongly pressed the
case for unfettered media access in the areas in the north of the country where
hostilities have been under way for several months,” White said.
Rajapaksa’s warning comes as a sharp
deterioration in the media freedom environment in Sri Lanka over the past month
coincides with the Government claiming its most significant successes in the
country’s long-running civil war.
A climate of anxiety now pervades
the local media, and several of Sri
Lanka’s most well-known journalists have
left the country fearing for their lives.
“Sri Lanka’s Government and authorities
are reminded that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 obliges all
states to be aware that the targeting of journalists in situations of armed
conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law,” White added.
calls on all members of Sri
Lanka’s Government to act decisively to end
the campaign of intimidation of local and foreign media, and to acknowledge the
right of citizens to free and fair access to diverse sources of information
about matters of extreme importance to all Sri Lankans.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries