Intimidation of Sri Lanka’s Defence Reporters Continues

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly urges the Sri Lankan authorities to investigate two incidents of intimidation of the media by unidentified groups alleged to be supporters of the Sri Lankan Army.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, the home of senior defence reporter Sirimevan Kasturiarachchi, of the Sinhala Divaina newspaper, was reportedly stormed by an unknown group at 4am on May 29.

The intruders warned Kasturiarachchi, who is a former officer of the Sri Lankan Air Force, to stop reporting on all matters related to the Sri Lankan Army and defence personnel.

Earlier last week, the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) reported an incident involving an unidentified man dressed in a Sri Lankan Army uniform who tried to enter the SLPI offices without permission. The man sought information about individual employees of SLPI, including its directorate.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, said the army had not authorised any member of its force to approach SLPI.

Pressure on journalists who report on Sri Lanka’s security situation and the conflict between the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has intensified in recent weeks after the abduction and beating of Keith Noyahr, defence reporter for The Nation, on May 22.

After a peaceful demonstration in Colombo on May 27 to protest the attack on Noyahr, the President and Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, Sanath Balasooriya and Poddala Jayantha, were threatened by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who had said the Government would not offer them safety or protection if they continued to advocate for press freedom in Sri Lanka.

In a letter of protest from the IFJ to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on May 29, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White urged the Government to “act within the democratic framework of the country to fulfill your promise to ensuring constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of the press and freedom of expression”.

“Our colleagues in Sri Lanka remain undeterred in their struggle for media freedom and the right to continue independent and critical coverage of abuses of the law, human rights, media freedom and democracy from all sides of the conflict,” White said.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries

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