COLOMBO: The United States on Saturday rapped the Sri Lankan government for allowing goons to assault media persons with impunity.
Coming close on the heels of the brutal assault on and the abduction of Keith Noyahr, Associate Editor and Defence Correspondent of ‘The Nation weekly by an unidentified gang, the US statement said some of the independent voices in the Sri Lankan media were paying “too high a price for speaking out.”
The statement was made in Colombo by visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Labour, Erica Barks-Ruggles. The US places a “very high” value on freedom of speech and the press, Barks-Ruggles told Sri Lankan officials.
She saluted the “civic courage” demonstrated by independent voices in Sri Lanka’s media, some of whom, she noted, “have paid too high a price for speaking out.”
” Sri Lanka has the necessary institutional framework in place, but it needs to empower its institutions to carry out their work effectively. Human rights protection needs to be applied in fact, not just in law,” she pointedout.
In a front page editorial on the attack on Noyahr, The Island said: “Noyahr’s ordeal has proved once again that the culture of impunity has come to stay in this country. Attacking journalists seems to have become an easier task than throwing stones at stray dogs. Perpetrators of violence against the media are confident of going scot free.”
Giving a list of ten journalists who were killed in the past two decades, the editorial said the performance of the government in investigating these cases,was “execrable”. Not one has been punished for the crimes.
Daily Mirror said in its edit that by allowing such attacks to take place with impunity, the government was only giving credence to a widespread feeling in the UN that Sri Lanka had a “serious” humanrights problem.