The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) fully support
the call made by the five principal organisations of journalists in Sri Lanka
urging government authorities to end immediately the harassment of media
personnel, which reached alarming levels on and just before January 26, the day
of the country’s presidential election.
Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), the Federation of Media
Employees’ Trade Unions (FMETU), the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) and
the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) – together known as the SL5 – issued a
joint statement recording how the election was marked by an unprecedented
degree of abuse of the state-owned media in the cause of the incumbent
president, Mahinda Rajapakse.
The IFJ is deeply
concerned for the safety of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who has been
missing since the evening of January 24. His wife registered a complaint with police
but they claim a lack of resources to investigate due to the responsibilities
imposed by the election.
“The IFJ calls
on power-holders in Sri
Lanka to step up all efforts to trace Prageeth
Eknaligoda, to rescind bans on numerous news portals and to submit to independent
scrutiny of the conduct of state media during the election campaign,” IFJ
General Secretary Aidan White said.
of news portal Lanka E News, for which Eknaligoda used to work, were surrounded by security
officials for about two hours on Thursday night. About 10 officers padlocked
the gates at the entrance to the office before leaving, effectively locking in staff.
It is reported that the police and the army deny sending officers to the
telecom authorities had blocked Lanka E News on January 26, just as polling
began. Complaints from staff to the Commissioner for Elections resulted in the
site becoming available briefly to internet users in Sri Lanka. But the ban was
reimposed soon after polling concluded.
management of state broadcaster the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC)
used physical violence and verbal threats against staffers who objected to the agency’s
partisan coverage during the election campaign.
the SL5 indicate that the corporation chairman and other managers assaulted and
threatened senior staffers who insisted on following the directives of the
Commissioner for Elections on providing equal and balanced coverage to all
obstruct free reporting suggest that the political mood is becoming more
uncompromising on the part of the authorities, despite the comfortable margin
of victory registered by Mahinda Rajapakse,” White said.
explicit acknowledgment, in words and deed, of the importance of a free and
autonomous media will serve to remedy some of the deep divisions in Sri Lanka.”
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries