Is Sri Lanka done assaulting the media?

By Bob Dietz/Asia Program Coordinator on February 5, 2010 3:58 PM ET

It was good to hear Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa point out in his Independence Day speech on Thursday that the country “cannot be developed with harassment, gross punishments or by the gun.” But the sentence that followed that—“Discipline is not revenge”—gives cause for concern. Rajapaksa’s speech marked the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain. It was delivered in Kandy, the heartland of the president’s electoral base.

Is a change coming? The government’s past policies saw media in Sri Lanka under steady attack as the country worked toward putting an end to its decades-long war with separationist Tamils. Or are the anti-media actions since the January 26 elections part of what Rajapaksa considers to be “discipline,” not “revenge”?

To show that that the era of harassment, gross punishment, and wanton gun-wielding are over, CPJ is calling on President Rajapaksa to use his re-election to address the air of impunity surrounding media attacks that have swelled during his first term in office and immediately deal with the problems that followed the recent elections. This is a perfect time to address the attacks on journalists that coincided with Sri Lanka’s long war.

Two issues are pressing: The whereabouts of opposition journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda remain unknown even to his family, according to his wife, Sandhya, who believes he was abducted.  Eknaligoda, she has told local and international media, disappeared on the night of January 24, two days before the presidential voting started. He wrote for the Web site Lanka eNews.

And, while police have removed the padlocks from the premises of the weekly Lanka newspaper following a court order a few days ago, according to the paper’s staffers, the editor, Chandana Sirimalwatte, remains in police custody since being summoned to make a statement at the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) headquarters in Colombo on January 30. He has not been charged with a crime so far. The BBC is reporting that it was told by the director of the CID that Sirimalwatte is being held under unspecified emergency regulations, because a recent article might have violated rules on government inquiries into terrorism.

Politics have always been hard fought in Sri Lanka, and a large part of the media has always been partisan. But slightly more than one week after the election, it looks like revenge and harassment remain part of the political process. Little seems to be changing since CPJ ranked Sri Lanka fourth on our Global Impunity Index, a ranking of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and the killers go free. A 2009 CPJ report, “Failure to Investigate,” reported on the history of attacks on journalists and the government’s failure to bring any prosecutions or convictions in any of the cases. 


8 comments

What is going in Sri Lanka is nothing but adhoc politics of a dictatorship without any policy, rule of law or democratic principles. The democracy was started in the US where the president, most powerful man on the earth cannot appoint an ambassador without the approval of the other branches of the US govt. In Sri Lanka it is all one man and his Ku-Kluxer Clan show making all powerful nations enemies of Sri Lanka and ruining our motherland. We need another Wijemuni Vijitha Rohana de Silva, a naval rating who attacked Rajiv Gandhi with his rifle this time to save Sri Lanka from the most corrupt and undemocratic regime ever to rule in the history of our motherland. Well-wishers to our countrymen and women!

Srilank is an Illegal state with an Ilegal Constitution since 1972 run by liers and co and what else can you expect?

There is no democracy in Sri Lanka. Media freedom is an essential part of democracy. I wonder why this country is still considered a member of Common Wealth & I wonder why International communities providing assistance in the form of financial aid to this country. Any aid given to this country is used by the current regime to pay for their Nazi/Hitler like regime agents, oppress media....even channel 4 in uk. If UK/USA/EU think they can make a difference in this country in the form of diplomatic actions, sanctions, etc etc.

it's a redundant question. of course not. next.

China and India will protect Sri Lanka from any investigation of human rights violations and war crimes. Political opponents of Rajapakse brothers will be harassed and killed if necessary. The West wants to believe whatever the president says so that their strategic interests and trade will go unhindered.

Humanity failed in Sri Lanka

The current plight of Tamils is essentially a result of the "ideological bankruptcy of the International Community" in not being able to find universal formulas for recognising righteous questions of self determination. At least without fuelling war and corruption bring a "credible political solution of internal self determination to reduce brutal domination".

It is a systematic genocide going in Sri lanka, we cannot tolerate it or we cannot be a silence spectator.
Mrs. Indra Gandhi Former Prime Minister of India in July 1983.

They also miserably failed to denounce the Sri Lankan government's clear lack of will to investigate impartially credible allegations of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law and to see that those responsible are brought to justice for too long. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I am not worried about the opinion of the Tamil people... now we cannot think of them, not about their lives or their opinion... the more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhalese people will be here... Really if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhalese people will be happy.
J.R.Jayawardene, Former President of Sri Lanka - (London Daily Telegraph, 11th July 1983 to Reporter Iyan Wattson)

Human rights agencies say that there are still disappearance every day. Journalists whoever questioned the Govt are killed or disappeared or left the country. Sri Lankan Govt may well be continuing its human rights abuses with these arbitrary arrests and executions. The level of democracy in the island was best illustrated by the opposition presidential candidate called for the intervention of 'outside governments' to prevent dictatorship and to protect democracy in the island. There is no law and order in this country,there is nothing we can do about it.
Regional ambitious China and India’s war support to Colombo Govt is an atrocious crime. Tamils are undergoing unspeakable hardship, and the monstrosity and nefariousness is only matched by the Nazis terror on Jews.
Is the world had simply closed its moral eyes ?....Failure to ensure safety to Sri Lanka Tamils is a moral disgrace to UN and India, and also a stain in India's illustrious history,"

Tamils in the camps are (forcefully displaced and forcefully detained) victims and survivors of the brutish genocidal war.
To confine them in the camps unlawfully against their will is to further victimize and traumatize them.
Tamils were not treated like victims of war, but as war criminals by the Colombo's recalcitrant Govt authorities. Colombo for its move to weed out alleged ex LTTE cadres within the camps as “collectively punishing the non-combatant Tamil civilians who wish to return home.

The world support for "War on Terror" was nefariously abused by Colombo to brutally oppress the minority Tamils and their long denied political rights.

Colombo regime have conducted the brutal war without humanity ,witness , and agreement, which ends with death and destruction only.

“International pressure is being stifled in the United Nations and elsewhere” China ,Russia and India's opposition to censure Colombo at the Security council during the height of the onslaught as evidence “that the machinery of the United Nations has been emasculated by China's veto as China considers Recalcitrant Colombo is in its sphere of influence” before slamming Beijing’s promotion of non-interference with national sovereignty as “convenient”.


The International Criminal Court has opened an initial inquiry into Sri Lankan rights-abuse cases that could turn into a full-blown investigation. Nefarious Colombo however, is not an ICC signatory and thus would have to consent or be referred by the U.N. Security Council for the ICC to have jurisdiction over it. This helps recalcitrant Colombo to freely hide from culture of impunity, war crime and accountability.

Unfortunate oppressed and fortunate oppressor.

As world history attests, peace sought through the suppression and humiliation of an ethnic community proves to be elusive.“First brutally abusing the human rights of a people to shatter their spirit and then in the guise of restoring them blunting the basic political question is the trick experimented with Tamils by the forces of the newly found dangerous NEW WORLD ORDER ?

Colombo still seeks to hold back the truth. Tamils right for self determination has been brutally crushed by the Govt. Those who speak up and write are labeled "traitors" or terrorist supporters, underscoring the communal character of the Colombo Govts and its war crime agents.

So far International community have questioned enough on Tamils struggle but not on recalcitrant Colombo.

Always the oppressor define the path of the struggle not the oppressed.


Sri Lanka is ranked as the 4th most dangerous place for Journalist. Of the 35 journalists in Exile in Europe a majority of them are Sinhalese. Unless the human rights culture of Sri Lanka is changed no ruler of the country will be able to wipe the tears of the marginalisd be it Tamils,Muslims or Sinhalese. The previous rulers of SL were no better than Rajapakse, not Sarath Fonseca who challenged him.

"Revenge" is too sweet a word! Murder and thuggery are quite apt wih blatant impunity by demagogues who run the government.Another 17 journalists have fled after the elections. Meanwhile Rajapakse has signed an agreement with Russia last week to buy 300m $ worth of arms! For what and against whom is the question? Meanwhile Sarath Fonseka has been arrested apparently to be tried while he says he is ready to give evidence in an international war crime investigation. "I will not shield anyone", he has vowed! More fireworks are in the offing in Sri Lanka while the Human Rights Minister and Attorney General have flown to Geneva to meet the UN Human Rights Commissioner! Something is cooking alright!Will justice finally catch up with Sri lanka?

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