Journalists in Danger Following Sri Lanka Army "traitor" Slur
Brussels, 9 January - The International News Safety Institute (INSI) Wednesday protested against a Sri Lanka Army chief's labelling of some journalists as traitors and urged the government to take steps to ensure the safety of all journalists working in their country.
Army Commander Major General Sarath Fonseka said in an interview with the state-controlled daily Dinamina on 2 January that "treachery" of the media was hampering the military's fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and added that "we have a small number of traitors amongst the journalists".
The statement follows an attack by the Sri Lankan Air Force on the official LTTE radio station last November which killed at least three editorial staff.
"These words can only reflect and encourage more hostility against journalists," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder. "We hope and pray they do not foreshadow more attacks.
"I would remind General Fonseka that freedom of expression is a basic human right and it is the job of journalists to report the views of all sections of society and all sides in a conflict. Journalists in conflict zones are protected as civilians under the Geneva Conventions."
UN Security Council Resolution 1738 additionally urges all parties in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel.
"We urge the government of Sri Lanka to take a stand for freedom of expression and guarantee the safety of journalists, " Pinder said.
The plight of journalists in Sri Lanka is of increasing concern to INSI. Six news media staff died there in 2007, making the country one of the most dangerous in the world in a year in which a record 171 news media personnel died. Others have been subjected to death threats and other intimidation.
INSI's global survey of news media casualties since 1996 places Sri Lanka 14th out of more than 70 countries where journalists died trying to do their jobs.
INSI is a unique coalition of news organisations, journalist support groups and individuals exclusively dedicated to the safety of news media staff working in dangerous environments. It is a non-profit charity, supported by membership contributions which are channelled back into safety work
Any questions about this news release should be addressed to Rodney Pinder, email email@example.com or mobile +44 7734 709 267