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Sri Lanka: Stop the War on Journalists

Categories: South Asia, Sri Lanka, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Media & Journalism, Protest, War & Conflict

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) [1], an organization which aims to protect and strengthen the rights and freedoms of journalists is calling for a Global Day of Action on the 10th of April, titled Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka.

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IFJ has asked it's friends and colleagues to participate in the Global Day of Action by:

  • Sending your own letters of protest to President Rajapaksa through local Sri Lankan embassies
  • Sending your own letters to your government calling on their support
  • Displaying the “Stop the War on Journalists in Sri Lanka” image on your website, during rallies, on public display and in the press at any opportunity
  • “This is part of a series of actions for the ‘Stop the War on Journalists’ campaign for Sri Lanka which will culminate with World Press Freedom Day on May 3 and the release of the IFJ’s annual South Asia Press Freedom Report for 2007-2008″ says IFJ [2].

    Following news reports and links present a detailed picture of what is going on in Sri Lanka. While this is a mainstream media report [3], it provides an overview of why Sri Lanka is a dangerous place for journalists to operate in.

    Human Rights Watch [4] says

    The Sri Lankan government is responsible for widespread abductions and “disappearances” that are a national crisis, Human Rights Watch said in a new report [5] released today. Human Rights Watch urged the government to reveal the whereabouts of the “disappeared,” immediately end the practice, and hold the perpetrators accountable….

    …The 241-page report, “Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for ‘Disappearances’ and Abductions in Sri Lanka [5],” documents 99 of the several hundred cases reported, and examines the Sri Lankan government’s response, which to date has been grossly inadequate. In 2006 and 2007, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances recorded more new “disappearance” cases from Sri Lanka than from any other country in the world.

    Morning Star: [6] has a report on detained journalists. Transcurrents [7] reports that the Sri Lanka Media Rights Group expresses concern over the string of journalist arrests.

    Number of journalists arrested; one journalist released after questioning [8] says Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka, an affiliate of the IJF. Reporters Without Borders [9] reacts by expressing concern for the fate of the five Tamil journalists arrested by the anti-terrorist police in Colombo. Uthawi.net, the German non-profit organization for whom Mr.Jasikaran, one of the detailed journalists acted as the liaisons volunteer has issued a press release [10]. Thiru, a blogger from Belgium asks us to send appeals [11] to OHCHR-UNOG, Amnesty International, Sri Lankan President among others, on behalf of the suffering orphanage children. ICT4Peace [12] draws parallels between censorship in Iran and Sri Lanka, which brings to mind this question – If journalists are threatened, will bloggers face similar penalties?

    TamilNet [13] reports that the the government's actions are neither transparent nor in the spirit of a free media, and perhaps reflect the government's actions against the ethnic minority.

    Yesterday morning, I. Shivalingam, a TamilNet reporter from Wattala, boarded the morning train to come to the TamilNet office in Colombo. However, he never reported for work, and has not been seen or heard of since he left his home. Investigations by TamilNet reveal that a white van was seen in the vicinity of the Fort Railway Station round about the time that I. Shivalingam was scheduled to be there. TamilNet investigations have also found that Ranjini, a neighbour of Shivalingam, has also disappeared the same day under suspicious circumstances.