Media freedom can only be assured by prosecuting past crimes against journalists and media workers, the Jaffna Press Club has stressed.
The collective of journalists and media workers based in Jaffna and the rest of the Northern Province said they “firmly believe that without investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the murders and disappearances of journalists and media workers, media freedom in Sri Lanka cannot be assured.”
Releasing a statement yesterday for World Press Freedom Day, the organisation said that while the new government has not killed or abducted journalists, the lack of investigation into the murders of Tamil journalists has called its commitment to accountability into question.
Read full statement below.
Translated from Tamil by Tamil Guardian
World Press Freedom Day is observed all over the world today. While there has still been no justice this year in Sri Lanka for the journalists that have been murdered, abducted and forcibly disappeared, press freedom day is somehow being celebrated.
Jaffna Press Club firmly believe that without investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the murders and disappearances of journalists and media workers, media freedom in Sri Lanka cannot be assured.
It is unfortunate that while perpetrators roam freely, journalists will continue to engage in self-censorship.
In the reign of previous regimes, at least 44 journalists were murdered and disappeared across Sri Lanka. Of that number the majority are Tamils, with at least 41 Tamil journalists and media workers having been murdered and forcibly disappeared, mostly from the North-East.
The fact that the new government has not established even basic steps and inquiries towards justice for any of these murdered Tamil journalists, has caused us to question their willingness to bring about accountability.
Under the new regime there have been no blatant assassinations of journalists. Similarly, there also have not been any blatant abductions or forcible disappearances of journalists. Investigations have begun into the murder of journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and the abduction and disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda.
The Right to Information Act has been passed in Parliament. These are all welcome steps. However the government cannot just display these steps to the outside word to wiggle its way out of accountability for the murders and abductions of Tamil journalists.
That the government cannot be allowed to escape from accountability is the united position of journalists all over Sri Lanka.
So on this World Press Freedom Day, while the Jaffna Press Club remembers all our murdered and disappeared journalists and media workers, we emphasise to the government the need to ensure our rights to gather information and report it without having to face pressures and threats.
We stress again that there must be investigations into all the murders, abductions and disappearances of journalists and that their perpetrators must be prosecuted.