Halt the Slander Campaign Against Sri Lanka’s Journalist Union Leader


The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in condemning a campaign of

slander and vilification that has been launched against the leader of the Sri

Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) through state-controlled media.


The IFJ learns from sources

in Sri Lanka that on March 22, the state-controlled ITN channel carried a news

item claiming that it would soon be exposing a “traitor”, while showing

pictures of Gnanasiri Koththigoda, president of the SLWJA in the background.

The anchor-person referred to a number of journalists forced into exile by the

climate of intimidation as “media traitors” and crudely suggested that

Koththigoda was through his news reporting in Colombo, aiding the cause of

secession espoused by sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.


The SLWJA is an IFJ

affiliate of long standing. One of Koththigoda’s predecessors as SLWJA

president, Poddala Jayantha, has been living in exile since January 2010 after

suffering a brutal assault in June the previous year that has left him with

permanent disabilities.


“We are shocked at the

continuing violence of the rhetoric employed by government officials and the

state-owned media outlets, despite the spirited protests of journalists within

Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.


As already noted,

the rhetoric began escalating when Sri Lanka’s journalists began a campaign in

January demanding accountability for attacks on the press during the country’s

long civil war against Tamil separatism. It became shriller still after the

U.N. Human Rights Council in March adopted a resolution censuring Sri Lanka for

its failure to act against suspected war crimes during the last phase of the



The IFJ learns that

Koththigoda on March 23, took up the matter of the threatening tone of ITN’s

coverage with Sri Lanka’s Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene. The

minister then reportedly called up ITN’s director for news, Sudarman

Raddeligoda, and obtained an assurance that the attacks would cease. Yet the

attacks have continued according to IFJ sources in Sri Lanka.


“We learn that the ITN news

director was an unsuccessful candidate for parliament on a ruling party ticket

during the last general elections in Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.


“His role in unleashing a

torrent of abuse against courageous journalists speak up for the cause of

national reconciliation, speaks of the complete demolition of institutional

autonomy and independence in the atmosphere of triumphalism that has followed

the end of the civil war”.


The IFJ urges the Sri Lankan

authorities to restrain the strident voices being aired through ITN and other

government-controlled media outlets.


“A drastic change in the

tone of the engagement between the government and independent media is long

overdue in Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.



further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950



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