Sri Lanka January 16, 2008

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H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa
President
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Fax: (011.94.11) 243.0590

Your Excellency:

As the ceasefire in Sri Lankaâ??s long running war with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) comes to an end, the Overseas Press Club of America must join other free-speech and journalism watchdog organizations in protesting apparent efforts by members of your government to undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the free press. Raising questions about the professionalism and patriotism of journalists covering the complex and dangerous situation in Sri Lanka can only undermine the governmentâ??s own credibility with its people and with the outside world.

We note with concern the remarks by Army Commander Major General Sarath Fonseka on January 2 of this year that â??treacheryâ? in the media hampered the fight against the LTTE, and that â??we have a small number of traitors among the journalists.â? And we must agree with Rodney Pindar, director of the International News Safety Institute, that â??These words can only reflect and encourage more hostility against journalists.â?

We must also protest use of the word â??traitorâ? by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare K. N. Douglas Devananda, in a January 7 press conference, referring to the well-respected journalist, Sri Ranga Jayarathnam, apparently because of a New Yearâ??s Day documentary that Jayarathnam broadcast on the private Shakthi TV channel about the assassination of Tamil Opposition politician, T. Maheshvaran.

We also endorse the complaint by The Committee to Protect Journalists about written and verbal attacks on your Ministry of Defense Website that equated factual reporting of the governmentâ??s military setbacks with â??assisting in the psychological operations of the LTTE terrorists.â?

Given that six members of the news media lost their lives last year covering critical developments in your country -- making it one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, according to INSI -- a fear of further attacks seems well founded.

We remind you that the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738 urges all parties in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personal. We respectfully urge you to ensure that members of your government refrain from further intimidation and provocation of violence against the press.

Respectfully yours,
David Alpern
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

H.E. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
No. 58 Sir Ernest de Silva Mawatha
Colombo 07
Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Fax: (011.94.11) 257.5454

Hon. Bernard Goonetilleke
Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
2148 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 232.7181

Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 986.1838

Hon. Robert O. Blake
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka
Embassy of the United States of America
210 Galle Road, Colombo 3
Sri Lanka
Fax: (011.94.11) 243.7345

Rodney Pinder
Director
International News Safety Institute
International Press Centre
Résidence Palace, Block C
155 rue de la Loi
B-1040 Brussels
Belgium
E-Mail: rodney.pinder@newssafety.com

Joel Simon
Executive Director
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Fax: (212) 465.9568
E-Mail: info@cpj.org

 

 


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