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Sri Lanka: State media distort a UN HRC event and drag a head of a state to intimidate dissent

NfR – Net working for rights in Sri lanka – Exile network for media and human rights in Sri Lanka
Press release/ 15 September 2011
NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders living outside the country, condemns the falsification of the proceedings of a side event organized by Sri Lankan Mission in Geneva, to intimidate Sri Lankan press freedom and human rights campaigner Sunanda Deshapriya. He has been a leading activist and a former convenor of the Free Media Movement. Sunanda Deshapriya is a founder member and a steering committee member of the Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka. He is associated with number of other national and international human rights organizations.

On 12th September 2011 Sri Lanka Embassy in Geneva organized a side event at the Palais des Nations to show the film ‘ Lies Agreed Upon’ which is a response to the film ‘Sri Lanka Killing Fields’ produced by the Channel 4. This was a parallel event held during the 18th Session of the UN HRC now being held in Geneva, Switzerland. Sunanda Deshapriya was the only former FMM convener who participated at the side event.

Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation which is a radio station controlled by the Government, carried the news item set out below during its 6.45 a.m. news broadcast on 15th September, 2011.

”The President of the Maldives, Mr. Mohammad Nasheed has told the former head of the Free Media Movement that it is a disgrace to work against ones own country. The former had questioned the right of the President to speak about Sri Lanka after the screening of the film ‘Lies Agreed Upon’. Responding to that question the Maldivian President had said that he emphasized fully aware of the situation of Sri Lanka. When the Maldivian president asked him whether he is form a NGO he has accepted it. Then the Maldivian president has been able to silence the former FMM head.”

This news item is a complete fabrication by the government of Sri Lanka. No such exchange took place between the president Nasheed and Deshapriya. The SLBC is an institution that is under the political control of the Media Ministry and Presidential Secretariat. In fact, instead of discrediting Sunanda Deshapriya this false report discredits the President of Maldives who spoke with great restraint and moderation at the side event. Sunanda Deshapriya didn’t ask any questions and President Mohamed Nasheed didn’t say a single word to the SLBC. This shows that in their attempt to intimidate human rights defenders, the GOSL controlled media outlets go to the extent of involving foreign dignitaries to add credibility to their fabrications.

Reprisals against human rights defenders for participation in the UN system are considered as a serious human right violation. In this instance state controlled media and there by the Sri Lankan state itself has become a violator of that right.

NfR views this fabrication as a continuation of the suppression of dissent and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. It is ironical that this kind of intimidatory tactics are being used even while GOSL delegation to the 18th Session of UN HRC is emphasizing that Sri Lanka has restored all freedoms and the rule of law in the country.

Condemning this false propaganda of GOSL, NfR calls for an immediate correction to the said news item and give it the same degree of publicity.

Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka
Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

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