Sri Lanka Brief
NewsCHOGM leaders should urge media freedom in Sri Lanka

CHOGM leaders should urge media freedom in Sri Lanka


November 5, 2013
Dear Commonwealth Heads of Government:

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was set up more than 40 years ago with the aim of working together toward shared goals of democracy, freedom, peace, and the rule of law. In the past, formal meetings and private retreats at the summit have served as a platform for member states to discuss issues that affect all nations, such as apartheid in South Africa and the electoral dispute in Zimbabwe.

But as leaders from more than 50 nations converge in Sri Lanka for the biennial summit this month, we would like to highlight our grave concern about the perilous climate of press freedom in the country and urge meaningful action.

Critical or opposition journalists continue to face intense intimidation in Sri Lanka. Our research shows that at least 26 journalists have gone into exile in the past five years, which is one of the highest rates in the world. And while work-related murders have declined since 2009, the slayings of nine journalists have gone unpunished over the past decade, which is one of the worst records of impunity in the world. CPJ is investigating other cases of journalists killed in Sri Lanka to determine whether the murders were related to their work. At least one journalist has simply disappeared.

CPJ research has shown that since the end of the civil war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration has failed to prosecute a single case of a murdered journalist, including the assassination of prominent newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga in 2009. Many of the victims, like Wickramatunga, had reported on politically sensitive issues in ways that were critical of the government.

Sri Lanka remains a highly unsafe place for journalists to work, a circumstance that is exacerbated when killers have impunity. We ask that in formal and private meetings with President Rajapaksa, you urge him to ensure a credible, independent investigation into the cases of disappeared and murdered journalists, make the findings public, and efficiently prosecute the perpetrators in an effort to help reverse the pattern of impunity.

Sri Lanka’s government is becoming increasingly repressive toward the press and critical voices, as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said following her recent visit to the country. Journalists in Sri Lanka should be able to work openly and freely without fearing for their lives. A vibrant independent press is necessary for sustainable development, long-term stability, and a healthy economy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Joel Simon
Executive Director

Appendix: List of Commonwealth heads of government
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, Antigua and Barbuda
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Australia
Prime Minister Perry Christie, Bahamas
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Barbados
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Belize
President Ian Khama, Botswana
Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei
President Paul Biya, Cameroon
President Nicos Anastasiades, Cyprus
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Dominica
President John Dramani Mahama, Ghana
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, Grenada
President Donald Ramotar, Guyana
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India
Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, Jamaica
President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya
President Anote Tong, Kiribati
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Lesotho
President Joyce Banda, Malawi
Prime Minister Najib Razak, Malaysia
President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, Maldives
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Malta
Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam, Mauritius
President Armando Guebuza, Mozambique
Prime Minister Hage Geingob, Namibia
President Baron Waqa, Nauru
Prime Minister John Key, New Zealand
President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan
Prime Minister Peter O’Neil, Papua New Guinea
President Paul Kagame, Rwanda
Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, Saint Lucia
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi, Samoa
President James Michel, Seychelles
President Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore
Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, Solomon Islands
President Jacob Zuma, South Africa
Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, Swaziland
President Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania
Prime Minister Lord Tuʻivakano, Tonga
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago
Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu
President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda
Prime Minister David Cameron, United Kingdom
Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil, Vanuatu
President Michael Sata, Zambia

CC List:
Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma
President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Minister of External Affairs Gamini Lakshman Peiris
Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada

Back to Top