INSI Alarm Over Sri Lanka Government "Treachery" Attacks On Journalists
Brussels, 6 June - The International News Safety Institute on Friday expressed its shock and alarm at repeated bellicose official statements aimed at journalists in the war-torn country and said it would draw the attention of the UN Secretary-General to the situation.
In commentaries published on its website on Thursday the Defence Ministry labelled journalists critical of the war effort against Tamil rebels as "enemies of the state" and said it would take unspecified "all necessary measures to stop this journalistic treachery".
As well as news organisations, the Ministry singled out for criticism the Free Media Movement (FMM), a prominent local rights group.
"As a newssafety organisation we fear statements like this risk encouraging those who have used extreme violence against journalists and other news professionals in the country," said INSI Director Rodney Pinder.
"This must stop immediately and the government must assure the news community of its independence and safety before ruthless elements are emboldened to take more violent action against journalists.
"I would remind the Sri Lankan government 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," he added.
INSI protested last January when Army Commander Maj.-Gen. Sarath Fonseka labelled some journalists as traitors. His statement followed a strike by the Sri Lankan Air Force against the official Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) radio station which killed at least three editorial staff the previous November.
INSI then urged the government to take stand for freedom of expression and guarantee the safety of journalists.
UN Security Council Resolution 1738 passed in December 2006 urges all parties in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel. In addition, journalists in conflict zones are protected as civilians under the Geneva Conventions.
"We are drawing our fears over these dangerous developments in Sri Lanka to the attention of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to consider under terms of Resolution 1738," Pinder said.
Under terms of the R1738 the Secretary-General is required to make regular reports to the Security Council on the issue of the safety and security of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel.
The text of R1738 is on the front page of the INSI website www.newssafety.com
At least 12 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed over the past two years, while others have been abducted, tortured or illegally detained, according to Amnesty International.
INSI's global survey of news media casualties since 1996 placed 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