In a high-risk move, the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka released a statement condemning the government’s ban on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) holding press conferences and issuing press releases. CPJ blogged about the government’s move last week.
The Free Media Movement, on which CPJ relies to monitor press freedom abuses in Sri Lanka, did not mince words in its rejection of the government’s July 1 directive. “We stress that this circular is totally illegal and we further bring into notice that there is a danger of this circular being used to oppress the freedom of expression of any citizen in Sri Lanka. Also this circular violates many charters of Human Rights which Sri Lanka is committed internationally through United Nations Organization,” the signed statement said.
“We emphasize that this circular is just another step taken forward to make Sri Lanka a dictatorial state. Therefore we want to remind that it’s the supreme responsibility of entire Sri Lankan nation to rally to defeat this villainous motive,” it said. (The movement’s response came a week after the government’s July 1 announcement, but CPJ only became aware of the response over the weekend.)
In a country where critical media are all but silenced or operate under high threat levels, terms like “dictatorial state” or calling on the public to defeat a “villainous” move by the government can result in heavy-handed retribution. The movement’s statement is courageous and deserves to be broadly circulated.