Sri Lanka

2013


Impact   |   Ethiopia, India, Liberia, Sri Lanka

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, November 2013

Photo credit, Barbara Nitke (CPJ)

Journalists honored at CPJ's annual award ceremony

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef was among four journalists who received CPJ's 2013 International Press Freedom Award on November 26. Youssef has used humor to report on and criticize government failures to improve the economy and public services, and its efforts to suppress opinion. In November, Youssef's show was suspended.

"Freedom of expression is not a privilege; it is a universal right," Youssef told the crowd gathered at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel. "Now, you don't have to be a journalist or a reporter. You can just be an ordinary citizen with a camera and a YouTube channel. This is how we started. I don't know how this will end. ... But at least this is how we started."

CPJ also awarded Janet Hinostroza, a leading TV reporter in Ecuador, who has continued to work despite threats to her and her family; Nedim Şener, who faces up to 15 years in jail on terrorism charges because of his reporting; and Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who was not present at the ceremony because he is serving a 12-year prison sentence for "conducting propaganda" against the state.

Thanks to Dan Doctoroff, chief executive officer and president of Bloomberg, who chaired the ceremony, the dinner raised a record $1.65 million for CPJ's worldwide press freedom advocacy. Many of the distinguished guests at the event also pledged support during a special appeal at the end of the night. Those funds were matched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, contributing another $200,000. 

Norman Pearlstine, executive vice president and chief content officer of Time Inc., presented Paul Steiger, founding editor-in-chief of ProPublica and former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for his lifetime commitment to press freedom.

December 5, 2013 12:40 PM ET

Blog   |   Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Sri Lanka

Journalists can help curb gender-based violence

Training journalists how to better cover gender-based violence can help challenge attitudes that foster sexual attacks. Helping journalists learn personal skills to safely navigate sexual aggression can help prevent them from becoming victims themselves.

Letters   |   Sri Lanka

CHOGM leaders should urge media freedom in Sri Lanka

Dear Commonwealth Heads of Government: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was set up more than 40 years ago with the aim of working together toward shared goals of democracy, freedom, peace, and the rule of law. In the past, formal meetings and private retreats at the summit have served as a platform for member states to discuss issues that affect all nations, such as apartheid in South Africa and the electoral dispute in Zimbabwe.

Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka detains, then releases two visiting journalists

With two weeks to go until the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka, the government's anti-media policies remain a pressing topic. There are two links below to statements by media support groups today relating to the government's wrongful and heavy handed response to a media workshop held in Colombo this week.

Alerts   |   Sri Lanka

Critical Sri Lankan newspaper editor held at knifepoint

New York, August 26, 2013--Five unidentified men entered the Colombo home of a Sunday Leader associate editor and writer early Saturday morning, held her at knifepoint, and searched her home, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Sri Lankan authorities to conduct a thorough and efficient investigation into the attack on Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema.

Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Despite official repression, Sri Lanka media report attack

Details are emerging of Sri Lanka's effort to control media coverage of an ugly attack on demonstrators by security forces last week. In Rathupaswala village in the town of Weliweriya, outside Colombo, on August 1, soldiers beat and fired on people protesting what they feared was contamination of their drinking water by a nearby factory. Most media accounts say three people died and 50 were wounded (here is AP and AFP coverage). Journalists, reports say, were singled out. 

Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Doubts as Sri Lanka says Commonwealth meeting open

As Sri Lanka prepares to host the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November, some journalists have wondered whether they will be able to access the summit given the island nation's abysmal press freedom record.

Letters   |   Sri Lanka

Commonwealth must ensure media access for CHOGM

Dear Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma: The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about press accreditation procedures for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in November. At past meetings, the Commonwealth's Communications and Public Affairs Division has been responsible for issuing permission to journalists to attend the meeting. And, as you know, the visa application process will soon be under way.

Alerts   |   Sri Lanka

Media ethics code could restrict free press in Sri Lanka

New York, June 19, 2013--A draft media code introduced in the Sri Lankan parliament would impose harsh restrictions on journalists' ability to report freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The code, which is before a parliamentary advisory council for discussion, could be considered for adoption in September, according to news reports citing an information minister.

Reports   |   Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Uganda

Journalists in exile 2013

Somalis, Syrians flee violence; Iran crackdown deepens

Fifty-five journalists fled their homes in the past year with help from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The most common reason to go into exile was the threat of violence, such as in Somalia and Syria, two of the most deadly countries in the world for the profession. Others fled the threat of prison, especially in Iran, where the government deepened its crackdown ahead of elections. A CPJ special report by Nicole Schilit

Syrians take shelter at a refugee camp near the border with Turkey. (Reuters/Muhammad Najdet Qadour/Shaam News Network)

Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka tries new ways to crush independent media

In Sri Lanka, where there has seldom been good news for the media in recent years, things have taken a further turn for the worse, as well as a turn for the bizarre. With President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government secure in its 2010 electoral mandate, its leaders have made fresh moves to tighten their control of the press. There is a plan afoot to re-criminalize defamation, and legislation has been proposed for a code of ethics that threatens to give the government a legal basis to quash journalism it deems "unethical." All this comes ahead of November's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo, which seems sure to go ahead despite calls for boycotts from several quarters because of the government's poor human rights record.

Blog   |   Sri Lanka, UAE

Sri Lankan journalist in UAE still at risk of deportation

Lohini Rathimohan, a former television journalist from Sri Lanka, faces an unclear future. The 28-year-old is among 15 Tamil refugees still sheltered in a single room of an aluminum factory at Dubai's Jebel Ali port whose official statuses remain uncertain.

Blog   |   Sri Lanka, UAE

Tamil journalist will not be forced back to Sri Lanka

A short note to follow up on an alert we posted Wednesday on the threatened deportation of Lohini Rathimohan  (also spelled Lokini), a former television journalist and one of 19 Tamil refugees facing deportation from the United Arab Emirates. Earlier reports said the refugees, who reached Dubai illegally, could be deported this week.

Alerts   |   Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka seeks to ID sources for Channel 4 film

New York, March 5, 2013--The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry says it wants to identify sources who provided information to the UK-based broadcaster Channel 4 for a new documentary alleging that government forces committed war crimes during the country's long civil conflict, The Divaina, a Sinhala-language daily, reported today. In response, the producer issued a statement saying that no "resident anywhere in Sri Lanka helped us with this film."

March 5, 2013 5:09 PM ET

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Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Rajapaksa regime under UNHRC, Commonwealth scrutiny

On February 13, Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in her annual report to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that Sri Lanka's government has not taken enough steps recommended by its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Although the LLRC is seen as a flawed attempt to heal Sri Lanka after decades of fratricidal conflict, last year the Human Rights Council adopted a U.S. motion calling on the government to act on the LLRC's recommendations. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government ignored the resolution, but the Americans say they will make a similar motion at this year's meeting of the 22nd session of the UNHRC, which opens on February 25 in Geneva.

Attacks on the Press   |   Sri Lanka

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka remained a highly restrictive and dangerous nation for the press. Critical or opposition journalists continued to face a climate of intense intimidation. More than 20 journalists have gone into exile in the last five years, one of the highest rates in the world. Work-related murders have declined since 2009, but the slayings of nine journalists have gone unsolved over the last decade, one of the worst records of impunity in the world. The government moved aggressively to obstruct the flow of information. In July, the Ministry of Media and Information blocked efforts to introduce freedom of information legislation before parliament, saying national security would be threatened if citizens were given access to public documents. The government had barred previous right-to-information efforts, including one in 2011. In June, police raided the offices of two opposition news websites, arresting staff members and confiscating equipment. At least five other critical websites were blocked. And in March, the authorities told all news organizations they must obtain prior official approval before issuing any text or SMS news alerts that carried information about the military or police.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Blog   |   Sri Lanka

@PresRajapaksa draws snark, concern, and criticism

Here is a quick pointer to one of Sri Lanka's few remaining independent media sources, Groundviews, which just posted a lengthy look at the president's newfound interest in social media: "The Sri Lankan President's Twitter archive and Propaganda 2.0: New challenges for online dissent." In a country where there isn't all that much to laugh about, Groundviews pokes some fun at President Mahinda Rajapaksa's recently launched Twitter account, @PresRajapaksa

February 12, 2013 12:31 PM ET

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Blog   |   Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's Black January: Year two

Journalists, rights activists, and opposition lawmakers, with Sandya Eknelygoda in the center, protest attacks on journalists and authorities' failure to punish the culprits in Colombo Tuesday. (AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Black January commemorations in Colombo have become an annual event. Tuesday's demonstration was the second. The protest aims to recall the series of killings and attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka in recent years, many of them occurring in Januaries past. All of them have gone untried and unpunished, sustaining the country's perfect record of impunity for those who want to silence media by murder.

Blog   |   Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, justice for Eknelygoda is a waiting game

Three years ago, on January 24, 2010, columnist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda vanished on his way to work to cover the final campaigning in Sri Lanka's bitterly contested presidential election. He has not been heard from since. The pro-opposition website he worked for, Lanka eNews, has been repeatedly attacked, its offices hit with arson, its staff arrested and harassed, its editor driven into exile in England.

January 23, 2013 6:01 PM ET

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