[Photo: FMM presents its short term proposals to President Maithripala Sirisena]
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) heartily congratulates newly elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. The IFJ calls on President Sirisena to ensure he delivers on the short-term proposal on re-establishing freedom of expression rights in Sri Lanka put to him by the Free Media Movement in December 2014.
The IFJ also congratulates the Sri Lankan people, media and its affiliates – the Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and the Free Media Movement (FMM) – for the successful and peaceful election.
Mr. Sirisena was elected President of Sri Lanka in the presidential election on January 7, 2015 ending the decade-long rule of Mahinda Rajapaksha, whose tenure saw media restrictions and harassments for many journalists.
Jane Worthington, the IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, said: “The IFJ congratulates the Sri Lankan people, media and newly elected president; and calls for media freedom and the safety of journalists to be at the forefront of the President’s reforms.”
The IFJ added: “The FMM put forward a media reform proposal while expressing support to Mr. Sirisena on December 16, 2014 and the IFJ hopes that the proposal will be looked into with highest priority by the government.”
The FMM proposal for media reforms include enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act, abolishment of impunity in the crimes against journalists, ensuring of independence of press, and ending the censorship on media.
The cabinet had approved the Freedom of Information Act in February 2004 under the premiership of Ranil Wickremasinghe, who has been re-appointed as the Prime Minister in the new government.
The IFJ said: “Impunity is a major issue for press freedom in Sri Lanka as investigations into killings, disappearance, attacks and threats on journalists and media institutions have not taken place. The IFJ urges the new Sri Lankan government to immediately establish mechanism to investigate crimes against journalists and ensure the safety of media workers across the country.”
It’s notable that over the past several years, the press freedom index in Sri Lanka has been on a steady decline. There has been systematic harassment to the media, with killings, attacks and threats to opposition voices; forced exiles and restriction attempts such as police questioning to media, restrictions on online media and threats to organizations training journalists, especially those from Tamil dominated areas.
The IFJ added: “It’s an opportunity for Sri Lanka and new government to ensure the democratic governance by ensuring complete media freedom and respect to freedom of expression.”