TISL Urges all parties to protect freedom of the media
Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) is seriously concerned with the deteriorating media freedom in the country. There have been several incidents in the recent past in country, where media personalities have been subject to death threats.Unfortunately three media personnel have been killed since 2005. In the latest of a series of such incidents this year, a journalist Clode Gurubavila and lawyer Manoj Nilanga, who presented a weekly political review called “Deshapalana Sathiya” on Swarnavahini TV have been threatened at gunpoint. There was also an allegation of personal threats on the Editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickramatunge. Meanwhile in Eastern town of Trincomalee, two Tamil languages provincial journalists, Shashi Kumar of Surian FM and Sali Mohamed of Sudaroli news paper continue to receive death threats for nearly a month now. It was just over a month ago, journalist Sugirdharajan of Sudaroli news paper was shot dead in same town. Mr. Prasad Purnamal, a journalist working for MTV TV Network was assaulted and his TV Camera smashed on the 16th of February 2006 at Puttlam. There was also a recent exposure as to the allegation of conspiracy to assassinate an owner of a private media channel. Unfortunately, these and several other allegations yet remain unsolved by the law enforcement authorities.
TISL considers media freedom as vital to democracy and to sustain liberty of the citizen. No democracy is sustainable without guaranteeing media freedom. Sri Lanka has been a party to several international human rights instruments including International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and its Constitution guarantees freedom of expression of all forms. For Sri Lanka to harvest the fruits of media freedom, it is important that the government and all those wielding power in any form to learn to tolerate exposures of corruption and all types of criticism. A significant feature in media freedom is that the public and media personalities have the right to challenge the political leadership through media in all spheres. It is the media which has a key responsibility to expose corruption. It is the media which gives an alternative views to the dominant view points and critical opinion that could change the direction of a country. In exposing corruption, the media is upholding not only the value of ethical conduct, good governance and right to information, but also the fundamental right of citizens to operate in a fair and just societal framework free of the negative impact of corruption on their daily life.
We consider it an utmost responsibility for the President, the government and all political allies of the government, the opposition and all non State actors to tolerate and ensure media freedom. The first steps to guarantee this is to value criticism and be tolerant of the right to expose perceived corruption by media, irrespective of its ownership, biases or any other prejudices. We also urge the law enforcement agencies to investigate as matter of priority, the allegations of harassments and intimidations meted out against media personalities. TISL reminds the public that it is their responsibility to defend and protect media freedom at the earliest opportunity and failure to do so will doom all other democratic rights.
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