New Level of Danger for Sri Lanka's Journalists as Threats Mount

 

Media Release: Sri Lanka                                                                           October

24, 2008

 

New Level of

Danger for Sri Lanka’s Journalists as Threats Mount

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed at

widespread and frequent verbal and physical attacks against journalists and press

freedom defenders in Sri

Lanka as the country’s internal conflict continues.

 

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate,

journalists in the troubled Eastern Province and those raising voices

unfavourable to either party in the violent confrontations between Sri Lankan

Government’s with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are in grave

danger.

 

In the

latest assault on media freedom, a

series of letters were reportedly received by human rights defenders and

lawyers associated with the current trial of senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam,

the first journalist to be charged under anti-terrorism laws for his published

work.

 

The letter

reportedly warned any supporters of Tissainayagam

or other defenders of human rights cases that they would be summarily killed or

suffer life-threatening injuries. The source of the letter, “Mahason Balakaya” (Mahason Regiment) is an

unknown group, the FMM reports.

 

In August, a supporter of the Tamil Makal Viduthalai Pulikal

(TMVP) Karuna faction threatened journalist Thakshila Jayasena from Sandeshaya, the BBC Sinhala Service,

when covering a protest campaign by the United National Party, Sri

Lanka’s main opposition party.

 

In September, journalist Radhika Devakumar,

a provincial correspondent of the Tamil daily Thinakaran newspaper,

survived an assassination attempt in her home. This incident is reportedly

linked to her former position as media coordinator for Eastern Province Chief

Minister Sinvaesathurai Chandrakanthan.

 

On October

18, an article in the

state-controlled Dinamina daily accused

ten journalists of working for the Tamil Tigers and allegedly reporting

distorted interpretations on the humanitarian crisis facing the Sri Lankan

government.

 

 “For any hope of democratic stability to

return to this now conflict-devastated country,

journalists and photographers must have the right of passage to report on the

war independently and disseminate information locally and internationally,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

said.

 

“Journalists

are now more than ever being actively targeted for their reporting. Moves by any

party to incite further violence against the media are not only irresponsible

but inhumane.”

 

The IFJ

joins the FMM in calling upon the

Inspector General of the Police to take the lead in dismantling the growing

attitude of disregard for journalists’ safety and professional duty by

demonstrating that any perpetrator of such violence will face justice.

 

Only through

denouncing the trend of attacks and threats will the Government be able to

restore public confidence in Sri

Lanka at such a fragile time.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in

120 countries worldwide