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Murdered journalists were ‘third class’ claims Sri Lankan official

A senior Sri Lankan official sparked outrage after he claimed that the dozens of journalists who had been murdered on the island were “third class ones”, in comments made to reporters at a press briefing last week.

“A journalist is someone who has a very big responsibility and high standards,” said Dr Hemantha Herath, a spokesperson at Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health.

“There are third class journalists too. I know that many of those journalists who were killed in the past were third class ones.”

The comment comes as Sri Lanka remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists with the island remaining 127th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

Earlier this year the former Sri Lankan MP Karu Jayasuriy said at least 117 journalists have been killed of have disappeared since 1981 and an "innumerable number have been subjected to great repression".

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.

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Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

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