World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2013
The violence unleashed again on the media in the Northern part of Sri Lanka has questioned the level of press freedom in the island. During the first quarter of this year alone, murder attempts have taken place against two journalists, five media personnel were violently assaulted on three separate occasions and the printing machinery of a media establishment was set alight by unidentified persons. Furthermore, on at least three occasions copies of daily newspapers were intercepted during transportation and burned.
When the Sri Lankan Government announced in 2009 that the war had ended, there were fresh hopes among media personnel of the North that targeted violence against the media by the Sri Lankan State would decrease.
On the contrary journalists and media establishments have been repeatedly targeted throughout the recent past.
Pressure on media has increased in intensity throughout Sri Lanka, with unprecedented levels in the North.
In the Vanni, a region claimed by the Sri Lankan Government to be now more free and unhindered, journalists are still denied freedom of movement.
Foreign journalists too are highly restricted.
Despite four years since the Sri Lankan government’s declaration of the war being over, the restriction on media in Sri Lanka has remained unchanged.
The perpetrators of the violence against journalists, media personnel and media establishments have neither been apprehended nor punished. The prime factor behind the continuing violence against the free media is that no attempts by Sri Lanka’s authorities have been made to bring the perpetrators to be accountable.
The media oppression spanning two decades has claimed the lives of many journalists. Several have been disappeared. Scores have fled Sri Lanka, and many more have had to leave the field of journalism altogether.
Families of disappeared journalists continue their long vigil for the return of their loved ones.
The Jaffna Press Club, a consortium of journalists serving amidst untold crisis submit the following requests on this Free Media Day.
The Jaffna Press Club calls on the International Community and the Government of Sri Lanka:
1) To create an environment conducive to journalists and media personnel;
2) For perpetrators of violence against journalists, media personnel and media establishments to be brought to justice;
3) For the fate of the all disappeared journalists to be made public;
4) Appropriate compensations to be granted to the next-of- kin of killed and injured journalists, and families of missing journalists be sustained and protected; and
5) For journalists who had opted to migrate out of Sri Lanka due to threats against their safety and security to be protected by the respective countries where they have sought asylum.