IFJ Backs Sri Lankan Journalists’ Protests Against Suppression

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) extends

its solidarity to Sri Lanka’s

five main organisations of journalists as they begin a campaign of protests to

draw attention to the new wave of media suppression since the country’s

presidential election on January 26.

 

The Free

Media Movement (FMM), the Federation

of Media Employees’ Trade Unions (FMETU) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’

Association (SLWJA) – all IFJ affiliates – are participating in a public rally in

Colombo scheduled

for noon today. Also involved are the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum and the Sri

Lanka Tamil Media Alliance.

 

Issues to be

raised at the rally include the disappearance of freelance cartoonist and

columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda on January 24, the detention of Lanka editor Chandana Sirimalwatte, ostensibly for terrorism offences, on January 30,

and the victimisation of several employees of government-owned media

institutions.

 

“The IFJ is very

concerned at the obvious intent of Sri Lankan authorities to clamp down on

journalists and media organisations that may have taken a critical attitude

toward the administration of President Mahinda Rajapakse, recently re-elected

to a new term,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said.

 

The IFJ is

deeply worried about Eknaligoda, whose disappearance was followed on the day of

the election by the blocking of the Lanka-e-News website for which he was a contributor.

Sri Lanka’s

Elections Commissioner ordered the ban lifted, but it was reimposed soon

afterwards.

 

Sirimalwatte’s

detention, similarly, followed the sealing of the Lanka newspaper’s offices.

Though the closure was lifted on a magistrate’s order, the paper’s editor

continues to be detained without charge.

 

State-owned

media institutions Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd (the Lake House group)

and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) have also witnessed significant

internal turmoil since the election. In both, journalists who insisted on adhering

to the media code of conduct set by the  Commissioner for Elections have been verbally

and physically abused.

 

A senior office-holder

of the SLRC workers’ union has received a notice of termination of services, 17

have been prohibited from entering the premises, and three have been sent on

compulsory leave. Another 13 staff have received letters demanding they explain

their conduct.

 

There are

also reports that security agencies intend to summon several journalists for

interrogation regarding an alleged assassination plot against the President by

his main opponent in the recent election.

 

“We call

upon authorities in Sri

Lanka and in particular on President

Rajapakse to call off the witch-hunt and to approach the post-election scenario

with national reconciliation as the uppermost priority, including in regard to freedom

of the media and the right to free speech,” White said.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries