Amnesty: Rights abuses flourish in secrecy, denial in Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Saturday, 03 May 2008, 02:57 GMT]
Noting that in conflict situations "without reports, pictures and film of the fighting and the violence, no-one knows enough to put the pressure on the participants to ensure human rights are respected," Amnesty International, in a media release issued Friday, said the need for such environment is "strong in Sri Lanka, where fatalities on all sides are believed to be very high with large numbers of civilians caught in the crossfire."

Media suppression in Sri Lanka
Media suppression in Sri Lanka (Photo: Amnesty)
"Despite the gravity of the human cost of war, Sri Lanka is a conflict where journalists face unjustified restrictions on reporting and there are very few established facts. In fact, both sides consistently contradict each other," the release said.

"The conflict in the north and east of Sri Lanka has continued to escalate since the ending of the ceasefire agreement on 16 January 2008. The withdrawal of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission responsible for monitoring the implementation of the 2002 ceasefire agreement means that there is a vacuum of independent reporting of human rights violations. This makes it more urgent that journalists are allowed to report without undue restrictions and document human rights abuses on the ground," Amnesty said in the release.

"25 journalists from the minority Tamil community had fled the Jaffna peninsula where government forces are battling Tamil Tiger rebels," Amnesty said, quoting International Federation of Journalists.

Also quoting Jaffna daily Uthayan Editor, that "[p]ublishing our daily newspaper in Jaffna is an increasingly Herculean and dangerous task with armed gunmen who continuously threaten our work and our lives," Amnesty pointed out that incarceration of Tamil journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam who was arrested on 7 March and has been held in the Terrorist Investigation Division Detention centre in Colombo, was arbitrary.

Amnesty also said that Tissainayagam "is at risk of going blind if he does not receive specialist treatment for a serious eye condition."

The organization called on the Government of Sri Lanka "to respect media workers and publicly announce that killings, threats, or other attacks will not be tolerated and to investigate all cases of attacks, disappearances and killings of media workers promptly, independently, impartially and effectively, irrespective of the identity of perpetrators or victims.

Amnesty also called on the LTTE to "issue instructions to all its members to cease all killings, threats or other attacks on media workers."

"All parties to the conflict must stop targeting journalists," the Amesty said.

External Links:
Amnesty: Human rights abuses in Sri Lanka flourish under veil of secrecy
Amnesty: Call for the protection of Sri Lankan media workers
Amnesty: Journalists in danger in Sri Lanka


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