For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
NfR – Net working for rights in Sri Lanka – Network for media and human rights in Sri Lanka
Press release/ 06th Feb 2012
NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, expresses its strongest condemnation of the life threatening hate campaign unleashed by the government of Sri Lanka on the Free Media Movement (FMM) and media freedom activists in the country. This campaign which has been going on for more than a month now is based on complete lies and dangerous allegations.
State controlled electronic and print media, the political mouth piece of ruling party has started leveling unfounded charges against FMM and media freedom activists saying that they belongs to a larger international conspiracy against the ‘sacred motherland’.
In the second week of January, 2012 the Sri Lanka Government launched this new round of attacks on FMM, media freedom activists and human rights defenders on its main TV channel. Showing visuals of activists who live in exile with a voice-over stating ………………………“Those who betrayed the motherland for gold and titles were even killed in time of kings. Their decendents live on today” The programme was concluded with the prediction that ”They do no good to this country, some day they will also face no good.” ……
On 10 January GOSL accused FMM of sending petitions to the European Union urging it to terminate GSP plus tax concessions to Sri Lanka. In a news report on State print media, it named two former convenors of FMM and impliedly the present convenor too, for sending those so called petitions. Quoting intelligences reports the GOSL Information Department website said that ”It has been found that these anti-national elements sustaining on foreign funds, have sent about 700 petitions calling for the suspension of GSP+ facility to Sri Lanka. ”
While responding to those accusations FMM Convener, Sunil Jayasekara told BBC that ”FMM did not campaign against the European Union’s Generalised System of Preferences plus (GSP+) facility to Sri Lanka. The FMM only campaigned for retaining GSP+ by urging Sri Lanka government to respect its human rights obligations.”
On 25th January state sponsored gangs, including pole wielding thugs invaded the venue where media orgnisations had planned to hold The Black January protest rally. The printed placards carried by the gang said that ” Free Media Movement Portrays Tiger ( the LTTE) in Sheep’s Clothing”.
On 3 February state print media accused FMM of working with a Tamil political party to discredit GOSL at the up coming UNHRC secessions in Geneva. The report said that ”intelligence units have revealed information on a joint conspiracy by the country’s major Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with the Media Rights Organization and the Free Media Movement (FMM), to discredit Sri Lanka”; and that ”a group of TNA MPs and six FMM representatives have already left for Geneva to participate in the 19th Sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council to present false facts against Sri Lanka.”
Denying the story as completely false the FMM expresses its concern that this planned story could be used to harass and suppress its activists and the press freedom campaigns in Sri Lanka.
In a country where abductions and disappearances are continuing with complete impunity and extremist forces are unleashing dreadful hate attacks on dissenting voices, these attacks cannot be dismissed as mere media reports. If this continues unabated, these attacks may create a situation of intolerance and threaten the very right to life of media freedom activists.
Today FMM has become one of the leading and uniting factors in the struggles for media freedom in Sri Lanka. It has been in the fore front of campaigns for press freedom in the country for two decades now. It is a member of International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) the largest world body of journalist’s trade unions of 131 countries and with more than 600,000 members. In early 2000, the FMM initiated and consolidated unity among the journalist’s organizations cutting across ethnic and other divisions. The FMM played a pivotal role in establishing Sri Lanka Press Institute which includes the Press Complaints Commission and the Sri Lanka College of Journalism. Further it is a founding member of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, one of the leading election monitoring organizations in the country. FMM has co-ordinated and lead a number of press freedom, and, free and fair election campaigns in the country.
NfR views these renewed attacks on activists of press freedom as part of an overall strategy to silence dissenting voices and calls for rule of law and accountability. NfR has reliable information that state intelligence agencies are keeping a close surveillance on media freedom activists in the country. On the top of this, leading activists have been followed by unknown vehicles on several occasions in recent weeks.
NfR calls on national and international press freedom and human rights organizations to consider this dangerous situation seriously, to make their concerns known to GOSL and to take other appropriate action in defense of FMM and media freedom activism in Sri Lanka.
Please write to Minister Keheliya Rambukwella at email@example.com
Please send a solidarity message to FMM at firstname.lastname@example.org