ARTICLE 19 slams election violence
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 13 September 2000, 12:11 GMT]
ARTICLE 19, the anti-censorship pressure group Tuesday condemned the election-related violence in Sri Lanka and called on the government to lift expression restrictions. In a statement, ARTICLE 19 condemned "the escalating number of killings and physical attacks apparently connected to October's parliamentary elections and called upon the Sri Lankan government to widen the space for peaceful political debate."
The London-based organisation cited three issues under official control as particularly likely to affect the conduct of the election campaign and the fairness of the process: the bid to continue nation-wide emergency regulations during the election period, continued restrictions on reporting anything which may be viewed by the authorities as damaging to national security and the 'chilling' effect caused by the suspended jail sentence handed down to editor Lasantha Wickrematunga by the Sri Lankan High Court on 5 September 2000.
Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, urged the government to address these matters, saying "The government has an obligation to ensure that elections take place in an atmosphere where a wide range of opinions may be expressed peacefully. Maintaining island-wide emergency powers, suppressing all reporting and comment on one of the most crucial issues of the day, and holding the threat of legal action over journalists who raise issues considered inappropriate by politicians and public officials will not contribute to this goal."
ARTICLE 19 has consistently condemned the violence perpetrated in Sri Lanka. The organisation says it continues to call for the government to respect international standards on freedom of expression and to facilitate an environment where the roots of conflict can be addressed in an atmosphere of open debate.
"This is particularly important during elections, when people need to be able to make an informed political choice based on the widest possible range of information," Article 19 said. "Much of this will come from the media, which therefore needs to be able to operate critically without fear of political interference or other