FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Pro-govt. group forces Black January protesters out

While Sri Lanka slipped to 163rd position on the World Press Freedom Index, a pro-government mob yesterday prevented seven media organisations from staging a protest, titled Black January against media suppression, at the Fort Railway Station premises despite a Court order granting them permission. 

When the media personnel arrived at the Fort Railway Station yesterday afternoon, the pro-government demonstrators had already occupied their space and demanding that that they go to Lipton Circus in Colombo 7.

The journalists, unable to match their rivals’ physical might, decided to shift their protest to Lipton Circus, where they called for an end to state sponsored threats and attacks on the media.

Earlier in the day, the Colombo Magistrate’s Court, acting on a motion filed by the police, directed the media personnel to hold their demonstration within the Fort Railway Station premises and not move out onto the main road.

However, the pro-government activists were seen walking on the road opposite the Fort Railway Station.The World Press Freedom Index, which has been complied by Reporters Without Borders, has listed Sri Lanka five places down from its 158th position in 2010.

WPFI said the stranglehold of the Rajapaksa clan forced the last few opposition journalists to flee the country. Any that stayed behind were regularly subjected to harassment and threats. Attacks were less common but impunity and official censorship of independent news sites put an end to pluralism and contributed more than ever to self-censorship by almost all media outlets. “Online journalists and media continue to be targeted for violence. Impunity persists, and the regime does not hesitate to use censorship when its efforts to induce self-censorship no longer suffice,” WPFI said.

by Zacki Jabbar
IS

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