IFJ calls for maintenance of freedom of press

[TamilNet, Thursday, 13 November 2003, 17:19 GMT]
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has appealed to the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to maintain freedom of the press and respect for the independence of journalists, particularly in the state-owned media, during the current political uncertainty in the island. The IFJ also appealed for the establishment of an independent media commission to oversee the state-owned media institutions, to ensure that the Government withdraws from the editorial process in Sri Lanka's state-owned media.

The full text of the media release issued by the IFJ on THursday, 13 November, follows:


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation of journalists representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide, has sent a letter to the President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka calling on them to immediately withdraw from the editorial process of the state-owned media in Sri Lanka.

The IFJ says that last weeks' state of emergency and dramatic power tussle in Sri Lanka has underlined a deep and continuing flaw in Sri Lanka's state-owned media: the lack of protection from political interference.

The President of Sri Lanka has reportedly replaced editors and senior journalists in both state-owned print and broadcast outlets with those who are aligned to the new administration.

The IFJ has appealed to the President and Prime Minster to find the political will to work together to establish an independent media commission to oversee state-owned media to eliminate any perceived or actual political interference in the publicly-owned media in that country.

The call is being made just weeks before the IFJ holds a conference in Colombo to launch the Asia campaign for genuine independent public service media.

There is a long tradition of political interference in state-owned media in Sri Lanka and it has just got to stop,=94 said the IFJ President Christopher Warren today.

The Sri Lankan public has the absolute right to trust that the news and current affairs being produced by the state-owned media is truly independent and right now they are being denied this right, said Warren today.

Journalists need to be able to perform independent, ethical journalism, free from political inteference.

Now is the perfect time for the political leaders to show the will to put faith back into Sri Lanka's public media and establish a truly independent media commission at arm's length from the Government, especially as the IFJ and its Asia partners will be meeting in Colombo in early December discussing this very issue, said Warren.

In the letter, Warren stressed that it is the role of an independent media to ensure that the general public can make informed decisions that have not been unduly influenced by any party.

The IFJ has also called on the Government to ensure the safety of journalists in these times of conflict and transition.


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