Lankan Attorney General Mohan Peiris has said he was prepared to offer protection to any journalist that returns to the country from exile; US based media rights group, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.
“Speaking for myself, and I’m fairly sure the government will back me up on this, there is no question that the government needs our journalists,” Peiris has told a CPJ delegation. “They must come back and work here and help set up structures so that we can work together and we can respect each other. We must work with these institutions because we need them. We know if they stay outside and attack the government that is not useful.” When asked if the government would ensure their safety, Peiris said, “Of course, if they come back, there must be assurance on our part that they won’t come to any harm.”
Peiris was speaking to CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney and Asia Programme Coordinator Bob Dietz. The meeting came at the tail end of a series of discussions CPJ had with Sri Lankan journalists in Colombo and Jaffna to assess the situation in the country with regards to journalists following presidential election in January and before April’s parliamentary voting. “The Attorney General’s appeal to jo urnalists to return from exile is just a first step,” said Mahoney. “The government must go further by taking concrete action to address the climate of impunity and intimidation that prompted them to flee in the first place.”
Sri Lanka ranks fourth, behind Iraq, Somalia, and Sierra Leone, on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, a ranking of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and the killers go free. The country ranks 13th on CPJ’s database of journalists killed. A 2009 CPJ report, “Failure to Investigate,” reported on the history of attacks on journalists and the government’s failure to take action to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against journalists.