The Alliance of Media Organisations yesterday delivered a special memorandum to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, appealed to her office in the face of severe threats to the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. The special memo drafted by seven media organisations including the Free Media Movement, cited the killing and abduction and assault of journalists, attacks on media institutions, attempts to control the private media by threat, concessions or buy outs and web censorship among other issues faced by media professionals in the country. The Memo said a number of websites publishing material critical of the government, such as “Sri Lanka Guardian”, “Lanka E News”, “Lanka newsweb”, “Jaffna Muslims” and “Tamilnet” have been blocked at various times. However, the memo fails to raise concern about Sri Lanka’s block on the Colombo Telegraph website over the past six days.
The alliance calls on High Commissioner Pillay to make explicit reference to these concerns during her final press conference in Colombo, and her oral and written updates to the UN Human Rights Council and all other forums. It also calls for more attention by the UN on freedom of expression issues in Sri Lanka.
Read the full text of the memorandum here
When asked why they failed to mention about Colombo Telegraph; “It’s because you have exposed corruption related to these organisations which made most of them angry with CT” , highly placed source within the drafting committee of the memorandum told Colombo Telegraph. The memorandum was drafted by a group of people who are not members of these organisations.
These media organisations maintain a culture that they do not support critics even when they were being threatened and intimidated for their work as journalists.
In July 14, 2012 Colombo Telegraph reported; “The Colombo Telegraph learnt that in a conversation with Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, a former Convenor of the Free Media Movement, South Asia Project Manager for IFJ, Sukumar Muralidharan said his organization would not be issuing a statement condemning the Defence Secretary’s recent tirade against Sunday Leader Editor Fredrica Jansz until the journalist patched up her relationship with the FMM and certain media activist groups in Colombo. ‘They (Sunday Leader) need to patch up their relationship and we cannot get involved in something that could alienate us from the affiliates,’ he said.”
Three days after Colombo Telegraph was blocked,on August 26, Sri Lanka’s Consul General to Sydney and former Presidential Media Director Bandula Jayasekara, referring to Colombo Telegraph tweeted; “They have gone far beyond that I have heard from many. Is your free media free to insult? Just cowards hiding elsewhere”
Freedom House, US based watchdog in its report on Freedom on the Net 2012 said; “In November 2011, five popular news websites known for their reporting on human rights, governance issues, and corruption were arbitrarily blocked. Prior to this incident, the government and the TRCSL had never admitted to blocking websites but did so in this case on the premise of concerns about defamation and the violation of privacy. In December 2011 and intermittently in November 2011, Colombotelegraph.com, a news and commentary website run by exiled Sri Lankan journalists, was also blocked with absolutely no justification provided by authorities,but is accessible as of early 2012. The authorities have occasionally blocked website domains hosted on the servers of blogging platforms rather than specific blogs themselves,although only a few of the most popular blogs publish political content and dissenting narratives.”
History of Colombo Telegraph blocking
First -December 26, 2011 – We are blocked but we will not be stopped
Second – May 8, 2012 –Colombo Telegraph Blocked Again
Fourth – From August 23, 2013 up to now – Colombo Telegraph Blocked, How To Reach Us Now: Sri Lanka Telecom And Mobitel Joins The DPI Club!
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