At least 117 journalists have been killed of have disappeared since 1981 and an "innumerable number have been subjected to great repression", stated the former Sri Lankan MP Karu Jayasuriya.
Speaking at an event organised by the National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ), the former speaker made the remarks to commemorate media personnel who have been killed or forcibly disappeared in Sri Lanka.
Commenting on media freedom he added,
"In recent times, we see a different media culture. Instead of attacking today, journalists are arrested after forcibly entering their homes, taking away their computers and harassing them. They are forced to make false statements. Some fabricate blatant lies to ensure the win of their favoured politicians. Character assassination has become common. They create racial and religious divisions. Religion has been made a commodity. As a result, we as a country are facing an unprecedented challenge. It is the next generation that will have to face the repercussions,"
It remains unclear where Jayasuriya's tally of 117 over the last three deacdes is sourced from, however other organisations have recorded the murders and disappearances of media workers. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) recorded that as least 44 journalists had been killed or disappeared from 2004 to 2010 alone. Most of those journalists were Tamil (41) and from the North-East. The true figure is thought to be much higher.
Karu Jayasuriya served as Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs under the Rajapaksa regime between 2007 – 2008, during a period in which JDS recorded many of the murders. It was noted during this period international journalists and human rights organisations were expelled from the North-East by the government as the Sri Lankan military began to intensify its operations. The end of the armed conflict saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilians targeted and killed in indiscriminate attacks by state forces. The current President and Prime minister alongside several high-ranking military officials stand credibly accused of committing war crimes.
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