Colombo first to use anti-terrorism laws to punish journalists, say media watchdogs

[TamilNet, Saturday, 01 November 2008, 18:53 GMT]
The International Press Freedom Mission, a group of five international media watchdogs, which visited Sri Lanka between 25th to 29th October, said in a statement released Thursday that the mission is “alarmed at the use of an anti-terrorism law for the first time in the democratic world, to punish journalists purely for what they have written,” and added that the mission “found a deterioration in the press freedom situation since its last visit in June 2007, marked by a continuation in murders, attacks, abductions, intimidation and harassment of the media.”

“S. Tissainayagam, B. Jasiharan and V. Vallarmathy have been detained since March 2008 and later charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Mission is worried about the dangerous precedent this sets for all media nationally and internationally,” the statement said.

Pointing out “the recent World Press Freedom Index published by RSF, [where] Sri Lanka fell to the lowest press freedom rating of any democratic country worldwide,” the statement said that the mission was “shocked at repeated instances of elected representatives and Government Ministers using violence and inflammatory language against media workers and institutions,” and added that the Mission is also “concerned that state-owned media and the website of the Ministry of Defence have contributed to the vilification of independent media and journalists. Such actions can only be construed as efforts to discredit media through false accusations and clearly places them in danger.”

Observing that the media in the “North and East of the country have continued to bear the brunt of the worst forms of insecurity,” the statement said, “Media access to war-affected areas is heavily restricted with journalists forced to reproduce information disseminated by the conflicting parties. Media are constantly threatened by all parties to the conflict in an effort to curtail independent and critical reporting. The International Mission condemns the murder of P. Devakumar in Jaffna in May 2008, as well as over a dozen other murders documented since 2005.”

Refering to LTTE controlled areas, the Statement said, “In the LTTE-controlled areas freedom of expression and freedom of movement continue to be heavily restricted preventing diverse opinions and access to plural sources of information.”

Members of the International Mission met with the President of Sri Lanka, Ministerial Committee on Journalists Grievances, political parties, media owners and editors, journalists and media workers, human rights and legal experts, and the international community, the statement said.

The delegation that visited Sri lanka comprised of the International Federation of Journalists (www.ifj.org), International Media Support (www.i-m-s.dk), International News Safety Institute (www.newssafety.org), International Press Institute (www.freemedia.at), and Reporters Without Borders (www.rsf.org).


Chronology:


External Links:
Rsf: Statement of the International press freedom mission
Rsf: Sri Lanka - Annual report 2008

 

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