Sri Lankan State Media Chairman Threatens Journalists’ Leader

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed that senior officials associated with State institutions in Sri Lanka continue to issue extreme threats against independent journalists in the country.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, the chairman of the State-run Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation, Hudson Samarasinghe, publicly threatened and sought to incite violence against respected journalists’ leader Poddala Jayantha, as well as BBC journalist Elmo Fernando, in a radio broadcast on June 8

Jayantha is the general secretary of the Sri Lankan Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), the largest journalists’ organisation in the country and an affiliate of the IFJ.

In a letter to Sri Lanka’s Minister for Mass Media and Information, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, the IFJ calls on the Government to uphold its responsibility for the behaviour of its appointees.

The IFJ urges the Minister to take disciplinary action against Samarasinghe for promoting hate speech.

Minister Yapa is requested to act fully on his ministerial responsibility and accountability for the safety of Jayantha and all other journalists put at risk by inflammatory comments and actions by government members, appointees and employees.

“A senior government appointee who uses hate speech and seeks to incite violence against journalists is actively undermining democratic freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which are guaranteed in Sri Lanka’s constitution,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“The failure to ensure the safety and protection of journalists whose lives have been directly threatened signals to the international human rights and press freedom community that Sri Lanka’s Government is complicit in the culture of impunity against independent media and journalists in Sri Lanka.”

 

 

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Head of State Media calls for journalist’s death

 

12th June 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Hudson Samarasinghe who was appointed as the Chairperson of State controlled Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) called for the death of senior journalist Poddala Jayantha. This outrageous incitement to murder and violence by Hudson Samarasinghe was made June 8th during a breakfast radio talk show he participated in called “Isira”. Poddala Jayantha is the General Secretary of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), which is the largest journalists’ organisation in the country.

Attacking an interview given by Poddala Jayantha on war reporting to a weekend newspaper, Hudson Samarasinghe is on public record as saying, 

“Poddala Jayantha, what do you know about the media you rascal? Do not sell the war for a living you bastard. Will you provide for the children after bombs go off? Remember one thing. The people will do what is necessary. Do not be a traitor.”

This venemous blather continued for over 10 minutes. Speaking in the same manner, Hudson Samarasinghe also attacked BBC Sinhala services Colombo reporter Elmo Fernando. He said,

“I tell BBC do not poke your fingers into our affairs. I am telling you decisively, remember this is the last warning, this is the last time I tell you…”

It is sadly evident that Hudson Samarasinghe harbours the certifiably deranged belief that he is in a position to issue dire warnings against independent media and openly, with total impunity, call for the murder of journalists.

This language of the Rajapakse administration’s apparatchiks and their behaviour reminds us of Radio Mille Collines in Rwanda, which laid the groundwork for genocide and large-scale violence. It is incredible how the Rajapakse regime countenances and indeed, ostensibly safeguards and promotes those who speak and act in such a manner as this. All those who are not part of the jingoism of the government are now terrorists and pariahs, fit to be exterminated. This is fascism, not democracy!

Hudson Samarasinghe has for some time now used this programme to level vicious attacks to journalists, civil society leaders and trade unionists. By appointing him to head a State media institution, the Rajapaksa administration demonstrates an utter disregard for media freedom. In attempting to even suggest that Hudson Samarasinghe has a right to say what he wants to, the Rajapaksa administration significantly aids the growth of hate speech and is directly culpable in violence directed against journalists.

This is a frightening context for independent journalists and journalism. We call upon all democratic forces to roundly condemn Hudson Samarasinghe’s loathsome comments and strengthen independent journalism in Sri Lanka.

by Media Centre – Sri Lanka ( SLWJA,FMETU.SLTMA.SLMMF.FMM)