IFJ report adds to Colombo's woes on war-crimes video

[TamilNet, Saturday, 19 December 2009, 17:05 GMT]
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), in a report released Friday after a fact finding mission to Sri Lanka, notes that the current political rivalry between the two leading presidential contenders is exposing the "abuses suffered by the media during the years of war, especially in its final stages." On possible new flashpoints the report notes the "anxiety in Sri Lanka official circles" when a video footage "purporting to show summary executions by army troops of a group of men described as Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka’s north" was broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 in August. Despite attempts by Sri Lanka to dismiss the video as fake, a Colorado firm in the U.S, and British Daily Times have independently verified that video is authentic, raising the spectre of renewed calls for charging the presidential contenders of war crimes.

Indicating the anxiety over looming war crime charges, and giving an illuminating glimpse of the hostile rivalry latent between the presidential contenders, Sarath Fonseka says, "he will never let down the troops who were under his command even if he has to go before an international court but at the same time will not defend some top government officials who interfered with the military operations," Daily mirror said in the Saturday edition.

On the video, the report said, "[n]o official demands for an independent inquiry have been made yet in the context of this video footage. The international diplomatic community is well aware that any such demand would likely be rejected outright by the GoSL. There have, however, been polite suggestions that a full accounting of the army’s actions in the last phase of the war will do Sri Lanka’s image no harm.

"The GoSL meanwhile has responded by ordering its mission in Germany to seek the help of local police in identifying the group of journalists in exile that reportedly “fabricated” the video footage.

"Evidently reflecting some degree of official anxiety, the state-owned Sunday Observer ran a lengthy report on September 20 saying experts deemed the footage "an absolute fake." The circulation of allegedly fabricated footage was put down to a "conspiracy," perhaps instigated by journalists in exile. The GoSL, the article reported, had begun an investigation to identify the origins of the footage and check the credentials of the group that had put it into circulation," the IFJ report said.

Commenting on the media freedom, the report said, "[i]n a climate of intolerance, several journalists are being induced to give up efforts to obtain redress for violations of their rights. The mission observed that journalists are being required to withdraw applications under the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution merely to be set at liberty after prolonged periods in wrongful detention. In the judgment of the mission, this is a grossly unequal exchange.

"Recent moves by the Government to revive a coercive form of media regulation, embodied in a 1973 legislation, have been opposed by journalists and publishers, who have renewed their commitment to a code of self-regulation," the report said.

Related Articles:
27.10.09   Sri Lanka editors receive death threats for Channel-4 video ..
18.10.09   Forensic analysis confirms execution-video authentic, says U..
18.09.09   Video investigation by Colombo not impartial - Alston
12.09.09   Executions: Sri Lanka refuting processed video, not original
28.08.09   Horrendous video images indicate violation of International ..

External Links:
SL: And now they come for us
UNHCHR: Sri Lanka should permit an impartial investigation into the 'Channel 4 videotape', says UN expert
Channel-4: Execution video: is this evidence of 'war crimes' in Sri Lanka?
DM: I ‘ll not let down my troops at International Court- Fonseka
Channel4: Investigating claims of Sri Lankan ‘war crimes’
IFJ: IFJ reports on Sri Lanka media
Times: Sri Lankan war crimes video is authentic, Times investigation finds


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