Censorship Worsens in Sri Lanka

Government Imposes Further Restrictions on Coverage of Civil War

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August 20, 1998

Her Excellency
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
President of Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka

 

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to express deep dismay over your government's expansion of censorship regulations governing media coverage of the civil war between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

On August 17, the Defense Ministry imposed an immediate ban on publishing any news regarding the transfer of officers within the government security forces' high command. The ministry maintained that such information could be used by the LTTE in devising their own military strategy.

When Defense Secretary Chandrananda de Silva announced, on June 5, that you were introducing regulations "prohibiting the publication and transmission of sensitive military information," CPJ joined the press in Sri Lanka in condemning this anti-democratic move. We noted, in a letter sent on June 9, that the regulations are exceptionally harsh, and all the more troubling for the military's direct role in deciding what is censored. We are alarmed that instead of responding to these concerns, you have decided to further restrict an already muzzled press.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, the Committee to Protect Journalists respectfully calls on Your Excellency to honor the commitments your government made upon coming to power in 1994, promising to strengthen constitutional guarantees for a free press. The Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka has noted that these latest moves by the administration are in "flagrant violation" of that pledge.

CPJ believes that the present conflict in Sri Lanka can only be resolved through an open exchange of information and ideas, and so once again urges you to lift the restrictions you have placed on both the foreign and local news media. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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Her Excellency
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
President of Sri Lanka
Colombo, Sri Lanka

011-94-1-446-657