Media Release to commemorate the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ observed on November 02
While it is the responsibility of any government to ensure Justice regarding crimes committed against journalists, the Free Media Movement expresses its apprehension of having to live in a country that has a history of being unable to ensure Justice even for a single crime committed against journalists in Sri Lanka.
During the period of the last regime that came into power guaranteeing to provide Justice for crimes committed against journalists, investigations commenced on some incidents. Still, inquiries continued at a very sluggish pace.
There have been only two High Court proceedings initiated in our history for crimes committed against journalists. The case related to the murder of Dharmeratnam Sivaram has come to a grinding halt. The High Court proceedings regarding the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda is the other case. A witness, in this case, disregarding court orders, appeared before the Presidential Commission inquiring into Political Victimisation appointed by the new government and stated that he had testified in court under duress. This situation has an adverse impact on the case.
The media community that advocates for Justice are perturbed in the face of this developing environment under a government, which according to the information based on a study conducted by the Free Media Movement, constitutes of rulers who were in power at a time when the highest number of crimes against journalists were committed.
The 20th Amendment to the Constitution, passed in Parliament on October 22, also raises doubts as to whether investigations will commence into crimes committed against journalists or conducted independently. According to the 20th Amendment, the President has the power to appoint all judges from the highest courts onwards in Sri Lanka, including senior police officers. The question of whether such appointed police officers will carry out investigations into crimes against journalists that have not been investigated so far and whether those judges who are appointed will be independent is a pressing concern among the fraternity.
It is against this backdrop in Sri Lanka that the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ will dawn on November 02.
It is a universally accepted fact that the responsibility of ensuring Justice to journalists is the responsibility of a government regardless of the stakeholders in power. Justice delayed is Justice denied. There is an intolerable disregard about ensuring Justice for crimes committed against journalists. The Free Media Movement, as well as all other media institutions and human rights activists, have consistently pressurised all governments in this regard. Requests have been submitted.
There have been calls for the appointment of a full-fledged presidential commission to investigate crimes committed against journalists that have been frozen in history. The Free Media Movement makes the same request from the new government and urges the media community as well as all communities and stakeholders that respect Justice to exert continuous pressure on the new government for this cause.
Lasantha De Silva