1080 Journalists Killed since 1992 | Srilanka 19

20 Deadliest Countries

Iraq: 166
Philippines: 76
Syria: 72
Algeria: 60
Pakistan: 56
Russia: 56
Somalia: 53

Colombia: 45
India: 32
Mexico: 30
Brazil: 29
Afghanistan: 26
Turkey: 20
Sri Lanka: 19

Bosnia: 19
Tajikistan: 17
Rwanda: 17
Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 16
Sierra Leone: 16
Bangladesh: 15

More Read @CPJ


Ceylon Today editor in chief forced to quit, reasons still unclear


Ceylon Today editor in chief forced to quit, reasons still unclear

Published on Friday 22 June 2012.

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the reasons that led the management of the newspaper Ceylon Today to force its editor in chief Lalith Allahakkoon to resign on 13 June. The journalist, who received no letter of dismissal, arrived at his office on 16 June to find that access to his computer had been blocked.

“The dismissal of Lalith Allahakkoon by Ceylon Today is worrying,” the press freedom organization said.

“If it is merely an internal restructuring issue, as experienced by many media organizations, there would be no reason to intervene, but we fear that it is rather a restriction on news and information and politically-motivated censorship,”

Reporters Without Borders wrote today to the management of Ceylon Today seeking the reasons for Allahakkoon’s dismissal and asking that all possible steps be taken to find a favourable outcome to this crisis gripping the newspaper’s editorial staff.

On 13 June Allahakkoon was summoned by the executive director Dushyantha Basnayake who asked for his resignation.

The following day, in a letter to Tiran Alles, chairman of Ceylon Newspapers (to which Ceylon Today belongs), and circulated to news organizations in Colombo, four of his colleagues, deputy editors Wilson Gnanadass and Dharisha Bastians, and journalists Rasika Jayakody and Dinidu De Alwis, expressed concern about “the persecution of our Editor-in-Chief Lalith Allahakkoon and our journalists that has arisen, based on false assumptions of political and ideological affiliations and allegiances; it is alarming, to a greater extent, that these persecutions and allegations stem from the highest echelons of the management, being you.”



CPJ condemns killings of 3 journalists in besieged Homs

Colvin and Ochlik. (AFP)

Colvin and Ochlik. (AFP)

New York, February 22, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the killings of three journalists who died today and Tuesday as Syrian forces continued intense shelling of the besieged city of Homs. The acclaimed international reporter Marie Colvin and the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik were killed this morning when their makeshift press center came under fire, while local videographer Rami al-Sayed died while covering a bombardment on Tuesday. At least three other journalists were reported injured.

“Our colleagues Marie Colvin, Rémi Ochlik, and Rami al-Sayed gave their lives to report a story of grave importance, a story the Syrian government has sought to choke off from rest of the world,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney, speaking from Cairo. “The deaths of these local and international journalists illustrate the escalating dangers to independent journalists working in Syria and the unacceptable price our colleagues are being forced to pay.”

Colvin, an American reporting for The Sunday Times of London, and Ochlik, a freelance photojournalist, were killed when a building being used as a makeshift media center was bombarded, news reports said. Jean-Pierre Perrin, a journalist for the Paris-based daily Liberation, told the British newspaper The Telegraph that he and Colvin had been advised a few days ago to leave the city because Syrian forces might target the impromptu press center, which had limited but precious electricity and Internet access. Perrin said the two left the city, although Colvin later returned. The interview did not specify who had advised them to leave. News reports raised speculation that Syrian forces could have identified the location of the makeshift press center through the reporters’ satellite signals.

At least three other journalists working in the press center were wounded in today’s shelling. Paul Conroy, a Times photographer, and Edith Bouvier, a reporter for Le Figaro, were being treated for leg wounds, news reports said. William Daniels, another photographer for the Times, was slightly injured, according to news reports.

Al-Sayed, a videographer whose work appeared on a live streaming site and was picked up by international news organizations, died in a local hospital on Tuesday after being wounded that day, according to news reports. Al-Sayed transmitted video of events in the Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr to the live streaming site Bambuser, and had uploaded hundreds of videos to his YouTube channel. His footage was used by several international and regional news organizations, news reports said. He was the cousin of Basil al-Sayed, a videographer killed while working in Baba Amr in December.

By controlling local news reports and expelling or denying entry to dozens of foreign journalists, the Syrian government has sought to impose a blackout on independent news coverage since the country’s uprising began almost a year ago, CPJ research shows. But along with the intensity of the conflict, the dangers to the press have risen dramatically in recent months–both for independent citizen journalists such as the al-Sayeds and the international journalists who have smuggled themselves into Syria at extremely high risk. In her last article for the Times, Colvin wrote that like many other foreign journalists, she had snuck into Homs along a smuggler’s route.

New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid died Thursday from an apparent asthma attack as he was leaving Syria following coverage of the conflict. Four other local and international journalists have died since November.

Colvin, 55, was considered one of the world’s preeminent international journalists. She lost an eye covering the Sri Lankan civil war a decade ago, one of numerous dangerous assignments from the Balkans to Chechnya that she had covered during her distinguished career. Ochlik, a freelancer, covered the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions and the war in Libya, according to his website. Born in 1983, his website said, Ochlik had work published in Le Monde, VSD, Paris Match, Time, and The Wall Street Journal.


By – CPJ

Sri Lanka’s woeful January way-points

For Sri Lankan journalists, January might be the cruelest month. In January 2011, Sonali Samarasinghe wrote about the death of her husband Lasantha Wickramatunga two years earlier on January 8, 2009. In January 2010 I reported in “Sri Lanka: A year later, still failing to fight media attacks” about the government’s inactivity in investigating Wickramatunga’s death one year on. That was a follow up to the February 2009 “Failure to Investigate,” in which CPJ had investigated his death and two other January attacks — one a bombing raid on an independent television station and the other — an attack similar to that on Wickramatunga, though not fatal — on Upali Tennakoon, the editor of a Sinhala newspaper.

Now, three years after Wickramatunga, the editor-in-chief of The Sunday Leader, was killed by eight men on four motorcycles who attacked him with metal and wooden poles after cutting off his car on a busy street near a police checkpoint and air force base in a suburb of Colombo, the court hearing periodic reports from police in the investigation has made no substantive movement toward bringing any of the perpetrators to justice.

Samarasinghe has released a wide-ranging indictment of the government’s inactivity and the continuing onslaught against independent media in Sri Lanka. The Free Media Movement released its statement Sunday. The Sunday Leader‘s remembrance, “Lasantha Was Murdered 3 Years Ago …Remembering Lasantha,” noted that “three years later and with over sixty dates in court, the Police have still not made any headway with the investigation.”

And coming up on January 24 is the second anniversary of the disappearance of Prageeth Eknelygoda, a cartoonist and pro-opposition journalist – another case that remains tied up in court hearings with no substantive movement. Eknelygoda’s wife and two sons have gotten no word from any official body of the Sri Lankan government, from the lowest police desk to the highest levels of the ministry of justice, about what happened to Eknelygoda.

In 2011, Sri Lanka ranked fourth worst in the world in terms of allowing murders of journalists to go unpunished, according to our global Impunity Index. As we noted in our report, “President Mahinda Rajapaksa has presided over a dark era of targeted media killings and complete law-enforcement failure in addressing the crimes. All nine journalist murders in the past decade have gone unsolved, leaving persistent questions as to whether authorities have been complicit in some of the crimes.”

The government has made public its report from the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which has been rejected internationally as a whitewash of conduct in the decades-long conflict with secessionist Tamil movements, notably the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. As we noted in a November 15 blog, “Sri Lanka’s savage smokescreen,” “A March 2011 report by a panel of experts appointed by [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] called the LLRC ‘deeply flawed.’ It recommended that the government should end practices that limit freedom of movement and freedom of expression ‘or otherwise contribute to a climate of fear.’

The result of all this mayhem is that Sri Lanka’s independent media has been largely restrained, though voices still speak out on occasion. The government’s attempt to rewrite the history of one of the most brutal civil conflicts in modern times has been challenged, but not yet discredited, by any independent international body of any stature.

In that context, the January 2009 murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga and the January 2010 unexplained disappearance of Prageeth Eknelygoda are only two way-points along Sri Lanka’s route to abandonment of its international standing as a country with a rule of law. And, of course, a free press.

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator

[Bob Dietz, coordinator of CPJ’s Asia Program, has reported across the continent for news outlets such as CNN and Asiaweek. He has led numerous CPJ missions, including ones to Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Follow him on Twitter @cpjasia and Facebook @ CPJ Asia Desk. ]

CPJ alarmed by gun attack on Sri Lankan journalist Radhika Devakumar

New York, September 10, 2008 — The Committee to Protect Journalists issued this statement today after learning that Radhika Devakumar, a provincial correspondent of the Thinakaran newspaper, a Tamil daily, survived an attack in her home during which she received three gunshot wounds.

“This attack has the earmarks of an assassination attempt. The government must immediately act to bring the perpetrators to justice. Sri Lanka’s record of impunity for those who attack journalists is a disgrace, and that record must be reversed now,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. 

CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

SRI LANKA: Another journalist attacked, hospitalized- CPJ


New York, July 2, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by the attack Monday evening on Namal Perera, freelance journalist and deputy head of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI), a media rights advocacy group. Perera was attacked by men with iron bars in Colombo while traveling in a car with a British diplomatic official, according to international news reports.

Perera is recovering from serious injuries in a Colombo hospital. Mahendra Ratnaweer, the British High Commission officer, was severely injured, according to Agence France-Presse. 

Perera and Ratnaweer’s car was followed by men on two motorbikes, according to Sunanda Deshapriya of the Free Media Movement, who spoke with Perera in the hospital. Sensing danger, Perera said he phoned a colleague at SLPI. The car was soon cornered by the motorbikes and a white van. Four men stepped out of the van and broke the car’s windows with metal poles.

The men attempted to pull Perera out of the car, repeatedly shouting, “We want you.” Both Perera and the officer were beaten repeatedly with the poles. The attackers then fled the scene.

“The attack on Namal Perera is yet another example of the violence and intimidation aimed at journalists in Sri Lanka,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “These attacks have gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The government is responsible for the culture of impunity that surrounds violence against journalists. It is time to reverse that ugly reality.” 

Parera told reporters he is convinced the attackers targeted him. He has recently criticized the government’s actions in its campaign against secessionist Tamil rebels. From the hospital, he told reporters that Tuesday’s incident is part of an attempt to silence people who criticize the official policy. On June 13, CPJ wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressing alarm at the violence directed toward journalists and the antagonism of his government toward those who report critically. 

The Sri Lankan government has appointed a cabinet subcommittee under the chairmanship of Minister Sarath Amunugamato to address the ongoing attacks, and two police teams are investigating Perera’s case, according to Deshapriya. He said the Free Media Movement intends to treat this case as a litmus test of the effectiveness of government’s pledge to eradicate threats to journalists. Police say they have no leads so far.

 CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

Sri Lanka cited on journalist murder ‘Impunity Index’

Sri Lanka cited on journalist murder ‘Impunity Index’
UNITED NATIONS, April 30, 2008 (AFP) – India, the Philippines, Mexico and Colombia — all democracies — were cited Wednesday among 13 countries with the poorest records of prosecuting murders of journalists, in a list released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The CPJ noted that while Iraq, Sierra Leone and Somalia, all four mired in conflict, were the worst offenders, most of the others were “established, peacetime democracies.”
“Most countries on the Impunity Index are democratic, are not at war, and have functioning law enforcement institutions, yet journalists are regularly targeted for murder and no one is held accountable,” it said as it released the index ahead of World Press Freedom Day, which falls Saturday.

“Every time a journalist is murdered and the killer is allowed to walk free, it sends a terrible signal to the press and to others who would harm journalists,” said New York-based CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

He urged governments on the list to “do more to demonstrate a real commitment to a free press.”

Almost half of the countries listed are in South Asia: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. And most of the murders ranked in the index were of local journalists in their home countries.

“We are calling for action: thorough investigations and vigorous prosecutions in all journalist homicides,” Simon added.

The index, which was compiled for the first time this year, calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of the population in each country.

CPJ examined every nation in the world for the years 1998 through 2007. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained.

Iraq, the world’s most dangerous country for the press after the 2003 US-led invasion, was found to have the worst record, with 79 murders unsolved, most of the victims Iraqis killed for professional reasons.

Sierra Leone, which emerged from an 11-year civil war in 2002, had nine unsolved journalist murders while lawless Somalia, which has not known a stable government since 1991, had five unsolved cases.

In Colombia, at least 20 unsolved cases were reported, most of them involving journalists covering the conflict among right-wing paramilitaries, leftist guerillas, and government forces.

Sri Lanka arrests six in connection with news Web site


New York, March 11, 2008—Six people affiliated with the Sri Lankan news Web site OutreachSL have been detained by the Terrorist Investigation Division of the Sri Lankan police force in Colombo since last week, according to Agence France-Presse and local news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists urges the government of Sri Lanka to charge these journalists and media workers or release them from police custody.

“The detention of these journalists and media workers is troubling,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The Sri Lankan government must clarify why they are being held and either charge them or release them immediately. The fact that four of them are Tamil journalists and media workers is an indicator of how vulnerable this group is to harassment by the Sri Lankan authorities.”

The six individuals, including journalists, editorial, and management staff of the multimedia news Web site OutreachSL, were detained separately between Thursday and Saturday last week, according to local press freedom group the Free Media Movement (FMM).

The six have not appeared in court, and it is not clear if they have been allowed access to legal council, FMM spokesman Sunanda Deshapriya told CPJ.

Three journalists, OutreachSL editor J.S. Tissanayagam, who also writes a column for Sri Lankan weekly The Sunday Times;S. Ranga, a photographer; and K. Wijesingha, a video cameraman for the Web site, were among the detained, according to The Sunday Times Web site. First names were not reported.

A fourth journalist, the Web site’svisual editor who was identified only as Udayanan, was also arrested on Friday, according to Deshapriya and the Tamil nationalist Web site TamilNet.

Two others, N. Jasiharan, who manages OutreachSL and owns a printing business, and his wife Valarmathi, were detained on Thursday night, Deshapriya told CPJ. TamilNet reported that Valarmathi is a management trainee with the independently owned Sri Lankan MTV news and entertainment television network.

Wijesingha and Udayanan are ethnic Sinhalese; the other four are Tamil, according to Deshapriya.

According to police records obtained by the FMM, Jasiharan is being investigated for links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Deshapriya said. The records said the other five had been detained for questioning, he said.

OutreachSL, a news Web site, is not known for controversial reporting. It is not clear what sparked the detentions, Deshapriya told CPJ. A journalist based in Colombo who declined to be identified told CPJ that Tissanayagam’s Times column, “Telescope,” offered a Tamil viewpoint of current affairs and was sometimes critical of the government.

Deputy Inspector General W. Prathapasinghe confirmed the arrests on Sunday, according to The Sunday Times. CPJ calls and e-mails to police in Colombo were not immediately returned.

Another FMM spokesman, S. Sivakumar, who edits the bimonthly Tamil magazine Sarinihar—which is printed by Jasiharan’s printing company E-Kwality—was also detained for nearly 12 hours on Saturday, Deshapriya told CPJ. Police visited Sivakumar’s office on Saturday morning and held his cousin there until Sivakumar arrived and agreed to be taken in for questioning, Deshapriya said.

The Free Media Movement and The Sunday Times reported that the detentions were made under emergency regulations. Sri Lanka’s August 2005 emergency regulations allow detentions of up to 12 months without charge, while some provisions of the longstanding Prevention of Terrorism Act, which were re-enacted in December 2006, allow for 18-month detentions.

Families of the detained had not yet been given detention orders for their relatives, Deshapriya said.

See here for original CPJ release.

CPJ fears for Sri Lankan journalists as cease-fire ends

Protest Letter

January 9, 2008

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa
President of Sri Lanka and Minister of Defense, Public Security, Law and Order
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 1
Sri Lanka

Via facsimile: +94 11 2430 590

Dear President Rajapaksa,

As your government prepares to withdraw from its 2002 cease-fire agreement with Tamil separatists, the Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by reports that members of your government have tried to intimidate journalists in the Sri Lankan media in recent weeks. In at least two instances, an official used the word “traitor” against a journalist, which is decidedly inflammatory in a country that has seen civil war rage since 1983.

We fear that when the end of the cease-fire officially goes into effect on January 16 and fighting resumes, your government will seek to further intimidate Sri Lankan journalists who might report critically on activities of the government or the Sri Lankan military. These fears are not unfounded, given recent incidents such as these:

At a press conference on January 7, Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare K. N. Douglas Devananda called the well-respected senior journalist Sri Ranga Jeyarathnam a “traitor” and accused him of being in league with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Minister Devaada made his remarks because he was angry about a documentary Jeyarathnam had aired on his program on the private Shakthi TV channel about the assassination of Tamil opposition politician T. Maheshvaran on New Year’s Day, it was widely reported in Sri Lanka’s media.

On January 2, in an interview published in the state-controlled Sinhala daily Dinamina, the commander of the Sri Lankan army, Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, called unnamed journalists “traitors” and referred to the “treachery” of the media. According to a translation of Fonseka’s remarks supplied by the Sri Lankan media rights group Free Media Movement, he said: “The biggest obstacle [to fighting Tamil separatists] is the unpatriotic media. I am not blaming all journalists. I know 99 percent of media and journalists are patriotic and doing their jobs properly. But unfortunately, we have a small number of traitors among the journalists. They are the biggest obstacle. All other obstacles we can surmount.”

We wrote to you on October 2, 2007, about written and verbal attacks that appeared on the Ministry of Defense’s Web site about Iqbal Athas, consultant editor and defense correspondent for The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka. The accusations effectively equated Athas’ journalism with terrorism, after he reported on setbacks the army faced in fighting with Tamil secessionists. The lengthy attack on Athas’ reporting accused him of “insulting our soldiers’ sacrifices” and claims his reporting “has been assisting in the psychological operations of the LTTE terrorists.” The article claims that “promoting terrorism had become a lucrative business” for Athas. Athas was awarded CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award in 1994.

On December 27, Minister of Labor Mervyn de Silva accompanied by a large group of men, stormed the state-run television station Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation and assaulted the station’s news director, T.M.G. Chandrasekara. The station’s staff held the minister and his supporters while police were summoned, and videotaped the minister’s apology for his actions on camera. De Silva was apparently angry because a speech he had delivered the previous day was been fully reported by the station. The government has made no mention of the ugly incident, nor has it apologized to the station’s staff for the behavior of one of its cabinet ministers.

As Sri Lanka apparently prepares to resume military action against the Tamil separatists, we call on you and members of your government to respect the vital role journalists play in an open democratic society. Verbal, written, and physical assaults on journalists are attacks on the very fabric of a democratic society. We call on you to make to ensure that members of your government refrain from such acts of intimidation.


Joel Simon
Executive Director

Access this letter on the CPJ website here and more reports on Sri Lanka by the CPJ here.