Sri Lanka Government Must Honour Promise to Investigate Abuses

As journalists in Sri Lanka continue to suffer intimidation and harassment, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on Sri Lanka’s Government to make good on its recent commitment to investigate thoroughly all acts of violence directed toward members of Sri Lanka’s media community.

In late June, the five main journalists’ organisations in Sri Lanka welcomed the Government’s move to set up a Cabinet subcommittee to look into the grievances of journalists, but said the committee must build confidence among the media community by reporting promptly and transparently about the progress of its inquiries.

Since then, seven incidents have been reported in which media personnel have been intimidated and harassed. There is no evidence of the subcommittee seeking to investigate any of these incidents, let alone the long list of prior cases.

The Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, said in a statement today: “Given the number of reports on the intimidation and harassment of journalists the FMM has received over the last two weeks, it is apparent that the Cabinet subcommittee appointed by the Government to look into the grievances of the media community is powerless to foster media freedom and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka or investigate meaningfully the violence directed against journalists.”

The FMM reports the following incidents since late June:

·     In early July, FMM spokesman Sunanda Deshapriya was visited at his family home by people claiming to be police. It was subsequently discovered that they gave false names and positions.

·     On July 7, Sirasa TV reporter T. Jayakumar was threatened at the Supreme Court and asked not to report on a fundamental rights petition filed by a Major General against the military high command.

·     On July 7, Chaminda Kulathunga, a provincial radio correspondent in Hambantota, was reportedly assaulted by police as he covered a demonstration. His identity card and tape recorder were confiscated. 

·     On July 7, Mahamuni Subramaniam, a provincial correspondent in the northern town of Vavuniya, was visited by a group of people who questioned him about a news photo of a June 16 bomb blast near the office of a police senior superintendent. He said two other Tamil journalists were also receiving regular threats and intimidation.

·     On July 13, a Sinhala nationalist newspaper ran an opinion piece accusing a photographer of working against national security because he took a photograph of a bomber plane departing from Sri Lanka’s international airport.

·     On July 14, Meegoda Hemapala, a freelance provincial correspondent of Giraduru Kotte, was threatened by a mob that surrounded his house, angered by his reporting of a case of alleged child abuse. Hemapala said senior police also threatened him.

·     On July 16, an anonymous caller threatened staff at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI), including Director General Ranga Kalansuriya, who has received threats against his life.

“The IFJ demands that the Government of Sri Lanka make good on its promise and investigate promptly and transparently all attacks and intimidation directed against journalists and media institutions in Sri Lanka,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“The Cabinet subcommittee set up to investigate violence against journalists in Sri Lanka is meaningless if it does not make serious and genuine efforts to resolve the crisis confronting journalists and media – and by extension, all citizens - in Sri Lanka.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries