Secretariat Building, Room S-3800
New York, NY 10017
Under terms of UNSCR 1738 on the protection of journalists in conflict, we write to draw your attention to the alarming situation in Sri Lanka, where statements associated with the government and the military have, in our view, put journalists in grave danger.
In commentaries published on its website on Thursday 5 June 2008 the Defence Ministry labelled journalists critical of the war effort against Tamil rebels as “enemies of the state” and said it would take “all necessary measures to stop this journalistic treachery.”
As well as news organisations, the Ministry singled out for criticism the Free Media Movement (FMM), a prominent local rights group.
This follows comments last January by Army Commander Maj.-Gen. Sarath Fonseka who labelled some journalists as traitors. His statement followed a strike by the Sri Lankan Air Force against the official Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) radio station which killed at least three editorial staff the previous November.
The undersigned organisations, all of whom fully support the UN Security Council Resolution 1738 on journalism in conflict zones, condemn these statements, which risk encouraging those who have used extreme violence against journalists and other news professionals in the country.
The global survey of news media casualties, presented to you by the International News Safety Institute last December, placed Sri Lanka 14th out of more than 70 countries where journalists died trying to do their jobs over the past decade. Journalists continue to work there in conditions of fear and harassment.
As you know, Resolution 1738 urges all parties in situations of armed conflict to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel.
We seek your support in urging all United Nations member states to respect Resolution 1738 in letter and in spirit, and specifically request your help in persuading the government of Sri Lanka to withdraw these statements and immediately stop all actions which undermine the independence and safety of the news community.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Cairo
ARTICLE 19, London
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Manama
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES), Kathmandu
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Manila
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York
Freedom House, New York
Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, Baku
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels
Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Chisinau
Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Kyiv
International News Safety Institute, Brussels
Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), International PEN, London
International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna
Index on Censorship, London
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela (IPYS Venezuela)
Journaliste en danger (JED), Kinshasa
Free Expression Ghana, Accra
Free Media Movement (FMM), Colombo
Maharat Foundation, Beirut
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Accra
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Lagos
Mizzima News, New Delhi
Media Institute of Southern Africa, Windhoek
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Mogadishu
Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations (NAFEO), Accra
Norwegian PEN, Oslo
Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Suva
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Karachi
Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), Asunción
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), Paris