"Deepening media crisis in Sri Lanka"- IFJ

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 January 2008, 03:45 GMT]
Expressing alarm at the comments at made by Sri Lanka's Army (SLA) Commander Major General Sarath Fonseka labelling some journalists and sections of the media as "traitors," the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is a press release issued Monday said, "the statement by Major General Fonseka and the allegations of death threats against journalists are indicative of a deepening media crisis in Sri Lanka."

Full text of IFJ's press release follows:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed by comments attributed to the commander of Sri Lanka’s Army, Major General Sarath Fonseka, who labelled some journalists and sections of the media as “traitors”.

In an interview published in the state-controlled Sinhala daily Dinamina on January 2, 2008, Foneska said the “treachery” of the media was the only obstacle hampering the military’s fight to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“The biggest obstacle is the unpatriotic media,” he was quoted as saying. “I know 99 percent of media and journalists are patriotic and doing their jobs properly. But unfortunately, we have a small number of traitors amongst the journalists. They are the biggest obstacle.”

The Free Media Movement (FMM), an affiliate of the IFJ, believed Fonseka was referring to journalists who criticised government war propaganda and who reported on both sides of the civil conflict. Foneska did not name specific journalists or media organisations.

His comments follow a statement by Sri Lanka’s Media Minister, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, late last year that journalists would only be recognised as such if they obtained media accreditation cards issued by the Government’s Information Department. Using this criterion, Yapa said just one journalist was killed in Sri Lanka in 2007, compared with IFJ and local records of six journalists killed in 2007.

The FMM is also extremely concerned that three journalists involved in a dispute with Labour Minister Mervyn Silva reported receiving death threats. Three leading media personnel with MBC-TV and Radio network, which broadcast an incident in which the Minister scuffled with journalists at the office of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC), have lodged complaints with Maharagama police over the threats. On December 27, 2007, the Minister assaulted SLRC’s news director, TMG Chandrasekara, at the premises of the main public television broadcaster.

The complaints by Chevaan Daniel, Kingsley Ratnayaka and Susil Kindelpitiya name underworld figures who are alleged to have been contracted to kill them, according to the FMM.

The FMM has received information that others also have been targeted due to the SLRC incident, including Sanath Balasuriya, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA); Dharmasiri Lankapeli, general secretary of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU); and several other senior journalists and trade union and media activists.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said the statement by Major General Fonseka and the allegations of death threats against journalists are indicative of a deepening media crisis in Sri Lanka.

“Attempts by senior power-holders to discredit journalists because they do not toe the line on government propaganda or because they resist intimidation and bullying seriously undermine media freedom and freedom of expression,” she said.

“The tight control exercised over the media by authorities in Sri Lanka is obstructing citizens in their right to information. But the public have a right to know all points of view, even those that place the Government in an unfavourable light.”

The IFJ joins the FMM in calling for the international press freedom community to write letters of protest to the Sri Lankan Government to demand it make a commitment to uphold its responsibility to protect journalists as non-combatant civilians in a time of conflict, and to cease slandering of journalists by officials and authorities.

Recommended action

Write to register your concern about the media situation in Sri Lanka in light of these developments and to request that meaningful remedial measures are taken urgently to restore public confidence in the rule of law in Sri Lanka.

Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa
Minster for Mass Media and Information
Ministry of Mass Media and Information
163, Kirulapona Road, Polhengoda,
Colombo 05,
Sri Lanka.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

External Links:
IFJ: Sri Lanka's Army Commander Denounces Journalists as Traitors


Latest 15 Reports
27.11.20 16:44   Photo
Occupied Tamil Eelam marks Heroes' Day indoors, SL military detains seminary principal
16.11.20 18:45  
China launches world’s biggest regional trade agreement without Indian participation
31.10.20 10:58  
Tamils risk Kashmir-like status revocation if Gota continues Trinco military cooperation with US
06.10.20 11:40  
Poet Pulamaipithan who championed Tamil Eelam solidarity in Tamil Nadu turns 85
28.09.20 23:19   Photo
Muslims join Tamils opposing Colombo's suppression of Thileepan Remembrance in North
27.09.20 12:05   Photo
Tamils unify to mark Thileepan Remembrance, brave Colombo's suppression of memorialisation
26.09.20 09:10   Photo
Commemorating sacrifices of Tamil struggle is an inalienable right, not a subject for ‘SL permission’
25.09.20 22:08   Photo
South Asia mourns SPB's demise
15.09.20 06:37   Photo
UN Rights Chief joins her predecessors in watering down collective rights of genocide affected people
04.09.20 22:13   Photo
Diaspora youth group re-aligns Tamil narrative on enforced disappearances
03.09.20 15:41   Photo
Jude Lal Fernando’s Sputnik interview exposes unfolding British duplicity on KMS ‘investigations’
02.09.20 22:03   Photo
Gotabaya's ‘Task Force’ monk threatens Tamils to stay away from their paddy fields in Thiriyaay
01.09.20 23:36  
Colombo extends genocidal land grab targeting farmlands of Tamils along NE border: Ravikaran
31.08.20 16:36   Photo
Families of war-disappeared send strong message braving SL restrictions on International Day
08.08.20 01:05   Photo
Sumanthiran alleged of exerting Colombo’s influence to tamper with preferential vote counts
Find this article at: