Colombo's contradictory positions on media freedom promotes impunity - NPC

[TamilNet, Saturday, 31 May 2008, 01:30 GMT]
Urging Sri Lanka Government to adopt a unified policy on media freedom, National Peace Council (NPC) in a media release issued Friday, condemned the killing of Jaffna journalist Devakumar, and the assault of senior journalist Keith Noyahr, and expressed concern on statements by Defense Ministry officials that staff of State controlled media have no right to criticize the State armed forces. The release also reiterated NPC's concern on the "continued incarceration of senior journalist J S Tissaianayagam, whose arrest and detention now continues into its third month without charges being made against him in a court of law."

Full text of the media release follows:

The silencing of journalists by killing and intimidating them has become a major problem in Sri Lanka. The National Peace Council condemns the killing of Paranirupasingam Devakumar who is the ninth journalist to be killed in the past two years. We are appalled at the brutal manner of his death by waylaying him as he was traveling and hacking him to death. This killing comes soon after the brutal assault and torture of senior journalist Keith Noyahr in Colombo.

International experience has shown that a key component of any political solution is its acceptance by the people of the country. It through public awareness creation, in which the media plays a central role, that the people's mandate for a sustainable political solution can be found. The National Peace Council notes that the government continues to stand by the position that it is for a political solution to the ethnic conflict and the ongoing military operations are meant to facilitate that political solution.

In this context, the killing of Paranirupasingam Devakumar, who worked for a national television network in Jaffna will be a further constraint on the free flow of information from the war zones of the north. We reiterate our concern about the continued incarceration of senior journalist J S Tissaianayagam, whose arrest and detention now continues into its third month without charges being made against him in a court of law.

We are perturbed by statements made by senior Defence Ministry officials that the military and its leadership should not be criticized by the media and that journalists working for the state controlled media had no right to criticize the government. While welcoming the Media Minister's statement that this is not government policy, we ask the government to ensure a unified media policy as contradictory statements may be taken by various groups as a further license to behave with impunity towards the media.

The National Peace Council expresses solidarity with those journalists who are courageously committed to revealing realities from the ground and to risking their lives in the service of truth. We express our admiration of the willingness of media personnel to continue their work in the face of such fatal risks. We call on the government to put in place protection mechanisms that would ensure the safety of journalists in Sri Lanka and the right of citizens to access a diverse media that provides free and accurate reporting on national affairs.

Media Director On behalf of the Governing Council

 

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