Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe expressed disappointment at the marked absence of journalists at a conference in Colombo devoted to the discussion on issues that are of paramount importance to the media, namely freedom of expression, rule of law and ending impunity for crimes against journalists.
Wickremesinghe noted that there were just two chairpersons of state media institutions and one editor of a privately owned newspaper present when he addressed the “UNESCO Regional Conference on Reinforcing Regional Cooperation to Promote Freedom of Expression and the Rule of Law in Asia through Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists,” at the Taj Samudra this morning (December 4).
Referring to journalists abducted, assaulted or killed while the previous regime was in power, Wickremesinghe opined that the journalistic fraternity seems unconcerned about such matters.
He then went on to attack media institutions in general, claiming that they attacked his government because they want the Rajapaksas back in power so they could, as he claimed they did before, do business and make money.
Commenting further on the absence of key figures in the media, Wickremsinghe asked whether they are interested in media freedom or if they only wanted media freedom to ‘attack the government, attack good governance and bring back a Rajapaksa regime.’
Meanwhile Minister of Finance and Mass Media Mangala Samaraweera remarked that the conference was an opportunity to reflect on a past where Sri Lanka used to be ‘a most unsafe place for journalists,’ recognize that there’s still work to be done although the government ‘has succeeded to a large extent in creating the safe space required for freedom of expression.’
He also stressed that ‘Sri Lanka remains firm in its commitment to work with the international community, including UNESCO, to work towards ending impunity for crimes against journalists, and to uphold the rights of journalists around the world who place themselves at risk every day, to give voice to the voiceless.’