The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked
at a recent article posted on the website of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence, branding as “traitors” five lawyers appearing in a
case of contempt involving the Sunday Leader newspaper.
The article, titled
“Traitors in Black Coats Flocked Together”,
names five lawyers who appeared for the Sunday Leader at a hearing in
the Mount Lavinia
court near Colombo
as having “a history of appearing for and defending” separatist guerillas of
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The article features pictures of
three of the lawyers.
“We have observed in recent times that this manner of public
vilification of individuals for being supposed sympathisers of the LTTE has
often provoked physical attacks on them by vigilante groups,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan
“The IFJ calls upon the Sri Lankan President to publicly
repudiate the sentiment expressed in the article and ensure that it is removed
from the official website of the Defence Ministry.”
The Sunday Leader,
edited by Lasantha Wickramatunge until his murder in January, has for long been locked in a defamation case
brought by Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse.
After Wickramatunge’s murder,
the newspaper agreed during a hearing of the case that it would not publish
material similar to that which had brought the action against it.
The contempt case that the Sunday Leader now faces
reportedly involves another report involving the Defence Secretary, though on a different subject.
“It is a principle of natural justice that the newspaper
should be able to seek sound advice and be represented by competent legal
counsel in this case,” White said.
The IFJ stands by the strong stand taken by its affiliate,
the Free Media Movement (FMM), and
other professional bodies in Sri
Lanka on the matter.
“We urge Sri
Lanka’s President to turn the page on the
bitterness of the long civil war against the LTTE and actively seek to restore
the freedoms that have deteriorated alarmingly in recent years.”
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide