The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice has today launched a new briefing on press freedom in Sri Lanka.
It paints a bleak picture of life for journalists in the nation ranked 4th in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ impunity index. The murder of 34 journalists in the last 7 years – none of which has resulted in the conviction of a single perpetrator – is portrayed as the tip of an iceberg of mechanisms used to silence dissenting voices.
Torture, abduction, and intimidation of family members are routinely used to dissuade members of the media from speaking out, as are the often vitriolic rebuttals by newspaper columnists loyal to the Sri Lankan Government and the postings of comments online.
As Edward Mortimer, Chair of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said, “the situation may now seem better than it was in 2009, when journalists were being abducted at a frightening rate, but in actual fact the number of such incidents has only gone down because the Sri Lankan government has effectively cowed its critics into silence.”
Speaking at a packed benefit evening at the Arcola theatre in Dalston, Fred Carver, Campaign Director for the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said, “When we hear about the war crimes that were committed in the first few months of 2009, it is natural to ask how it was possible that the government and the LTTE could get away with such things. The answer is that you have to be very very brave to talk about such things in Sri Lanka.”
He later added, “Other reports have attempted to capture the Sri Lankan state’s attempt to intimidate journalists into silence. This report show the effect this is having on the nature of debate in Sri Lanka – and how a culture of fear and self censorship is allowing the Sri Lankan regime to go almost entirely unchallenged in Sri Lanka.
“Just last week Radio Netherlands wrote about how their personnel were subject to a “white van abduction”, demonstrating that no one is safe from attack and that the situation is not improving.
“We urgently need the international community to take action to protect those relatively few brave journalists who do speak out from Sri Lanka and to support journalists in exile and other independent media in their reporting of Sri Lankan affairs.”