GENEVA, June 6 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan government statements accusing critical journalists of treachery in the civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels could encourage “extreme violence” against them, an international media body said on Friday.
The Brussels-based International News Safety Institute (INSI) said the latest attacks on reporters condemning many of them as “enemies of the state” appeared on the Sri Lankan defence ministry website on Thursday.
Such statements, INSI Director Rodney Pinder said in a statement sent to Reuters in Geneva, “risk encouraging those who have used extreme violence against journalists and other news professionals in the country.
“This must stop immediately and the (Sri Lankan) government must assure the news community of its independence and safety before ruthless elements are emboldened to take more violent action against journalists,” Pinder added.
He said he was drawing the situation to the attention of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is required under a Security Council resolution to make regular reports on the safety of journalists and other media personnel.
Amnesty International says that at least 12 media workers in the country have been killed over the past two years, while others had been abducted, tortured or illegally detained over the past two years.
In a global survey, INSI — which has members from around the world and works to improve safety of journalists working in dangerous situations — put Sri Lanka 14th of 70 countries where journalists had died trying to do their job since 1996.
Another media body, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in April put Sri Lanka 5th — just behind Iraq, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Colombia — on an “Impunity Index” of the number of unsolved murders of journalists between 1998 and 2007. (Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Jon Boyle)