NPC deplores threats to media freedom
[TamilNet, Friday, 20 April 2007, 11:55 GMT]
The National Peace Council (NPC) of Sri Lanka expressed concerns over reports that high ranking members of the government have pressured editors of national media institutions to avoid criticisms of government policies and actions, in a media release issued Thursday. Undemocratic state pressure on media is unacceptable, the release said.
Meanwhile, Free Media Movement (FMM) in a statement said, "This gross misconduct of a high-placed public official clearly demonstrates the challenges facing free media in Sri Lanka today," commenting on Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse's alleged threat to the editor of a leading English daily, Tuesday.
The following is the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka media release:
Undemocratic Government Pressure on Media is Unacceptable
Sri Lanka is a country that has been fortunate to have had a vibrant media except within the conflict zones of the north and east and in LTTE-controlled areas. However, recently there has been a noticeable decline in the freedom of media and in the accuracy and responsibility of media expression in the country as a whole. The National Peace Council appreciates courageous and balanced reporting in the context of the pressures faced by the media at present.
Recently two independent newspapers, the Weekend Standard and the Maubima, had to cease their operations when their bank accounts were sealed by the government on the grounds that they had been acting in violation of laws and national security. The National Peace Council is gravely concerned about reports that high ranking members of the government have been personally pressurised editors of national media institutions who have been critical of government policies and actions.
We particularly deplore the threats levelled against the editor of the Daily Mirror, Ms Champika Liyanarachchi, and her staff regarding their reportage of the human tragedy that has been unfolding in the east of the country. The team of young women journalists who head the Daily Mirror are a credit to the media profession. We are shocked at the threats against them and their safety and regret the subsequent government attempts to downplay the incident.
Freedom of expression is one of the basic pillars of a democratic society. A free media is necessary to inform both decision makers and the people about prevailing realities in the country. We call on the government to inquire into this incident and to insist that its members follow a code of conduct that accepts the fundamental principles of democratic governance including respect for the freedom of the media.
On behalf of the Governing Council