Security forces obstruct Sri Lanka’s media02 Jun, 2014
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins Sri Lankan affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM) in expressing concerns over recent incidents where security forces have openly obstructed the freedom of Sri Lanka’s media.
According to reports, high-ranking police officers warned journalists against filming a public event involving Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at Mout Lavinia District Court, in Colombo on May 27. The officer, who was filmed on camera, threatened journalists months of detention if they filmed Rajapaksha’s appearance on a defamation complaint against the Sunday Leader newspaper. The police also barred journalists from covering of the proceedings of the case.
On May 22, the Sri Lankan Army forced Transparency International Sri Lanka to cancel a media workshop focused on covering corruption. The three-day workshop for 25 Tamil journalists at Giritale, Polnnaruwa district of North Central Province was cancelled on the first day after threats were made against the hotel owner. Earlier this year, a two-day training course for Tamil journalists organised by Search for Common Ground in the same district was abandoned in January after a group of Buddhist monks interrupted the proceedings.
The FMM said: “It is unreasonable to obstruct media from reporting Rajapaksa’s case when all other court proceedings are open for media. The people’s right to information is a universally guaranteed right and the state does not have any authority to impose censorships in such an arbitrary manner without any valid reason or proper regulation.”
“Both incidents are clear violations of the Sri Lankan people’s constitutional right to information and right to peaceful assembly.”
The IFJ and the FMM call on the Government of Sri Lanka to show its commitment to democratic governance by putting an end to such incidents.
The IFJ said: “Instances of threat and intimidation against journalists by Sri Lanka’s security forces has steadily increased in recent times. Those incidents have deteriorated freedom of expression and weakened democratic governance. We urge the Sri Lankan government to immediately act to stop such activities and allow media to report freely.”