” I am writing to you today on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 600,000 journalists and media workers in 131 countries, to express our concerns about comments attributed to you in a number of media reports in Sri Lanka’s media. ”
President of the Maldives
The President’s Office
Republic of MaldivesOctober 5, 2011
Dear President Nasheed,
Re: False allegations and attacks on Sri Lankan Journalist Sunanda Deshapriya
I am writing to you today on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents more than 600,000 journalists and media workers in 131 countries, to express our concerns about comments attributed to you in a number of media reports in Sri Lanka’s media.
In these reports, you are quoted making negative comments about Sri Lankan human rights defenders participating in the ongoing sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and related side events held in Geneva in September. Of particular concern are the comments that obliquely refer to Sunanda Deshapriya, a former leader of IFJ affiliate the Free Media Movement, for having acted “against his country” in his advocacy work at the UN.
Mr. Deshapriya is a well known human rights defender, press freedom campaigner and journalist from Sri Lanka. He has been exiled in Switzerland since 2009 due to threats relating to a statement he made on human rights and press freedom in Sri Lanka during the Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council in May 2009.
He has been attending sessions of the UN Human Rights Council since 2009 and has worked closely with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and several international press freedom organizations and human rights organizations, including the IFJ.
Mr Deshapriya and several other witnesses have confirmed you did not make the comments attributed to you in these media reports, and that he had engaged in a cordial conversation with you and other Sri Lankan human rights defenders after the event. We have also confirmed this with others present at the said event.
I am concerned that if the reports misquoting you in the Sri Lankan media are not corrected, the damage to Mr Deshapriya’s reputation and the already considerable risks to his personal safety will be exacerbated. I am informed he has already received several threatening calls as a result of these reports – a list of which are attached to this letter.
I fear this misrepresentation of your interaction with Mr Deshapriya will set a precedent for misquoting senior figures in Sri Lanka’s media, which may be used to discredit and undermine those who voice their concerns about press freedom and human rights in the country.
Accordingly, I ask you to:
2. Request the Government of Sri Lanka to issue a public clarification about said comments;
3. Request the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure relevant media outlets publish a correction and apology with equal prominence as given to the original news item.
I thank you for your cooperation on this matter, and look forward to a positive response from
IFJ General Secretary