IFJ condemns bombing of VoT radio station

[TamilNet, Monday, 23 October 2006, 16:51 GMT]
The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the bombing of the official radio station of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Voice of Tigers (VoT), by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF) in Vanni last Tuesday. The IFJ, reminding the Sri Lankan government of its "absolute obligation" under the Geneva Convention to respect the safety of journalists, said it hoped the attack does not set a "terrible precedent" for further "targeted attacks" on media outlets. The SLAF attack on Thamileelam Vanoli tower in Kokkavil, destroyed the main transmitter and tower of the station that broadcasts three services, the VoT, a Sinhala service and a Tamil commercial service from Vanni.

Full text of the IFJ Press Release follows:

IFJ denounces bombing of Voice of Tigers in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the bombing of the official radio station of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Voice of Tigers (VOT), by the Sri Lankan Air Force in Killinochch, an LTTE-held town in Northern Sri Lanka on October 17.

According to IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the attack destroyed the broadcasting towers of the VOT and injured two workers.

"While the IFJ does not endorse or support the views of any particular media organisation, we maintain that all media should be treated as non-combatants and we strongly denounce the bombing of the VOT," IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) of the government reportedly said that although the VOT radio tower was not directly targeted, it could have been damaged during air attacks on other LTTE targets.

"An attack on a media outlet, regardless of viewpoint, is an attack on freedom of speech and a serious violation of international law," Warren said.

"The journalists at the VOT are unarmed citizens and thus should not be considered military targets under any circumstances," he said.

"The IFJ reminds the Sri Lankan government of their absolute obligation under the Geneva Convention to respect the safety of journalists."

The rights of journalists in conflict zones are defined in Article 79 of Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention, which says that journalists must be treated as civilians and non-combatants.

"This violent attempt to silence the media has endangered the lives of media workers and the IFJ sincerely hopes this does not set a terrible precedent for further targeted attacks on media outlets in Sri Lanka," the IFJ president said.

"The bombing of a media outlet, irrespective of whether it is initiated by the government or the LTTE, will result in the further destruction of media freedom and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka," Warren said.

The IFJ has consistently protested the targeting of media in times of conflict since the 1999 NATO strike on Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade, when 16 media staff were killed.

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries.

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