Sri Lanka's civilian massacre censored in RSF's 2009 report

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 30 December 2009, 13:09 GMT]
Reporters sans frontières (RSF), in a 2009 round-up report of key events on journalists, journalism and war, refers to the "mass exodus of journalists from repressive countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka" as RSF's major concern," and notes that "[t]he authorities in these countries have understood that by pushing journalists into exile, they can drastically reduce pluralism of ideas and the amount of criticism they attract." However, the report fails to mention the "massacre of more than 20,000 unarmed Tamil civilians by Sri Lanka security forces during the first 5 months of 2009 after banning journalists and NGOs, and conducting a "war without witness," Tamil circles complained.

Excerpts from the 2009 report follows:

Our major concern in 2009 has been the mass exodus of journalists from repressive countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka. The authorities in these countries have understood that by pushing journalists into exile, they can drastically reduce pluralism of ideas and the amount of criticism they attract. “This is a dangerous tendency and it must be very strongly condemned,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said as this review of 2009 was released.

“Three years have passed since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1738 on the protection of journalists in conflict zones but governments still seem incapable of protecting reporters,” Reporters Without Borders said.

On physical abuse of journalists, the report said, "[o]ther forms of violence, physical assaults and threats have gone up by a third (from 929 cases in 2008 to 1,456 in 2009). Journalists are most at risk in the Americas (501 cases), particularly when they expose drug-trafficking or local potentates. Asia comes next with 364 cases of this kind, chiefly in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The number of censored media is escalating alarmingly with nearly 570 cases of newspapers, radio or TV stations banned from putting out news or forced to close. This happened to a satirical magazine in Malaysia, a score of reformist newspapers in Iran, Radio France Internationale in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the BBC World Service in Rwanda."

On journalists participation in election coverage, the report noted, "[s]tate media are too often prevented from giving fair and balanced coverage of all the candidates’ campaigns. Such was the case during the contentious Afghan elections and the travesty of an election in Equatorial Guinea. The most committed journalists can be exposed to reprisals from a rival camp. Media access is not always properly observed, as evidenced in provincial polling in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka."

The "wave of violence bodes ill for 2010, when crucial elections are scheduled in Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories” said Reporters Without Borders, which often carries out media monitoring during election campaigns," report cautioned.

At least 167 journalists are in prison around the world at the end of 2009. One would need to go back to the 1990s to find so many of them in jail. Although the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression keeps reiterating that imprisonment is a disproportionate punishment for press offences, many governments keep laws that allow them to jail journalists, and continue to abuse these laws. The sentences given to journalists in Cuba, China, Sri Lanka and Iran are as harsh as those imposed for terrorism or violent crime.

For the first time, the Reporters Without Borders annual roundup includes figures for journalists who have been forced to leave their countries because of threats to their lives or liberty. A total of 157 journalists went into exile in the past year, often in very harsh conditions. Among the countries where the exodus of journalists and bloggers was particularly dramatic were Iran, with more than 50 fleeing, and Sri Lanka, with 29. In Africa, some 50 journalists fled the chaos in Somalia while scores of Eritreans sought refuge abroad for fear of being targeted for reprisals by the continent’s worst dictatorship. Journalists also fled Guinea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia and Ethiopia.


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External Links:
NYT: Sri Lanka Disputes Report of 20,000 Dead
Times: The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tiger
NYTimes: Satellite Map showing shelling damage inside Safety Zone
Times: Tamil death toll ‘is 1,400 a week’ at Manik Farm camp in Sri Lanka
Timeonline: How I was barred from reporting Tamil Tiger conflict
Times: Slaughter in Sri Lanka
NYT: Sri Lanka’s Dirty War

 

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