Endorsement of media repression in Sri Lanka, alarming- CPJ

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 10:37 GMT]
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York based media rights group, in a press release issued Monday, expressed alarm at "Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s brazen public call yesterday to censor the media and reintroduce criminal defamation laws." Condemning Gotabhaya's statement to Sri Lanka media, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said, "This is an open intimidation of the media...The Sri Lankan press sorely needs space to report independently on the escalating instability in the country, free of government intimidation."

Full text of CPJ's press release follows:

Sri Lankan defense minister endorses media repression


New York, January 28, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s brazen public call yesterday to censor the media and reintroduce criminal defamation laws. The comments were published in a Sinhala-language interview by Sri Lanka’s largest weekly, Sunday Lankadeepa, according to Free Media Movement spokesman Sunanda Deshapriya and veteran Sri Lankan journalist Iqbal Athas.

Rajapaksa, who is the brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told the Sunday Lankadeepa that he advocated press censorship, harsh punishments for critical reporting on the military and military expenditures, and a criminal defamation law, according to extracts from the article translated by the Free Media Movement.

“If I have the power I will not allow any of these things to be written,” the minister said in reference to reporting on the military, according to the Free Media Movement translation.

“This is an open intimidation of the media,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The Sri Lankan press sorely needs space to report independently on the escalating instability in the country, free of government intimidation.”

CPJ documented the case of a reporter who said she was personally threatened by Rajapaksa last year, but this is the first time his aggressive attitude toward the media has been publicly demonstrated.

The newspaper group Wijeya, which publishes the Sunday Lankadeepa and several other widely circulated publications—including the English-language Sunday Times—and the broadcasting conglomerate Maharaja were singled out by the minister as examples of privately owned media groups that abuse their existing freedoms by reporting critically, according to the Free Media Movement translation.


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CPJ: Sri Lankan defense minister endorses media repression

 

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