UN rights chief should push Sri Lanka on press freedom

By Sumit Galhotra/CPJ Asia Program Research Associate on August 23, 2013 1:59 PM ET

When the human rights watchdog for the United Nations visits Sri Lanka this weekend she should forcefully address the government's problematic record on press freedom.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka August 25-31 ahead of next month's regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

She plans to meet with government leaders and members of civil society. Given the abysmal state of press freedom in Sri Lanka, we hope she will also meet with journalists and press freedom advocates, including groups like Sri Lanka's Media Alliance. They will offer a very different view of Sri Lanka than the picture President Mahinda Rajapaksa projects to the world.

Rajapaksa has a record of relentlessly obstructing the independent press. Earlier this month, CPJ reported on government's effort to control media coverage of an ugly attack by security forces on people protesting what they feared was industrial contamination of their drinking water.

The incident underscored how the space for critical and independent reporting is quickly shrinking in the country. That does not bode well for accountability on human rights, a concern surely shared by Pillay.

This year, the government introduced a draft media code in Parliament that would impose harsh restrictions on journalists' ability to report freely. It was later withdrawn, following criticism. In March, the country's national broadcaster interrupted transmissions of BBC's Tamil service, and the local Tamil press continues to face attacks. In June, CPJ included Sri Lanka on the list of top countries from which journalists were forced to flee in the past year.

We also remain deeply concerned about whether critical journalists--both local and international--will be accredited to cover the upcoming biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November. Meanwhile, interest has waned in the case of the missing columnist and cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda, who disappeared in January 2010. The government has been uncooperative and even destructive to the case.

The climate for press freedom looks increasingly bleak in Sri Lanka. When Pillay assumed her position as the U.N. rights chief, she told the BBC in an interview that her position is the voice of the victim everywhere. The victim here--independent journalism--needs Pillay's intervention and support more than ever.


Little North Korea has nothing to do with the commonwealth or CHOGM.

WARNING: All the ground works have been done by the Chinese to keep Sri Lanka inline with North Korea. Sri Lanka is becoming a little North Korea. The media is under the control of the Rajapaksa brothers. The army is doing whatever need to be done to control the people. The army commander meets with the Chinese Ambassador to make sure all are under control according to the China's plan. The Chinese are smart, they have done more than investments in the country. The Rajapaksa brothers are enjoying lots of perks and benefits which came from the Chinese investments. They aren't going to give up those perks and benefits that easily. They are selling the country to the Chinese. The average Sri Lankans are left at the mercy of the Indian leaders and the West. I never thought Rajapaksa brothers would go this far. I am extremely disappointed.

Antany Peter,
Founder and director
Asia Unites, www.asiaunites.com

There is no problem about press freedom in Sri Lanka. None of the journalist or media organization who write the good things Hon Mahinda Rajapaksa & his close ones are hugely compensated. A few so called journalists who write lies critical about the government might face problems from the people. LOL

Sri-Lankan President has got cold feet on the visit of Naava Pillai, and he is all of a sudden vanishing to to Belarus another country which has no respect for Human rights, It appears that he is unable to face the truth

Sumit Galhotra's call is urgent and vital for journalists to funtion independently without fear of persecution in Sri Lanka. The army in the north of Sri Lanka threaten newspapers that they considers critical of them and their government. Many times the jounalists were attacked and distribution of newspapers were highhandedly distrupted and vehicles destroyed without the perpetrators being apprehended by the police.

The author's 'glowing' credentials speak for themselves in how biased he is. With little understanding of how the press works in this country and how outlandishly they behavior at the political whims of those looking for money or power, he is a foolish commentator, and nothing more.

Yes, Start with Wickileak, Snowdon and Guardian Reporters whose fundamental rights to protect democracy and fredom expression have been violated by the Western imperialist forces. Your organization receiving funding from those same government is responsible for those violations. We want every nation to be aware of these violations.

The abysmal record on the free press and the plight of journalists in the blighted island for want of good governance is common knowledge world wide.

What one can hope is that Navi Pillay (NP)who has stated on the eve of her visit to the island she is going with an open mind will get to see and hear at first hand in strict confidence the evidence of local journalists because it is no secret that open views will be met with harsh retaliation from government agents after NP leaves the island! The well known "white van goon squads" are yet very active!!! Especially so on the eve of the CHOGM Meeting, come next November!!!

If even judges of the High Court are dealt beatings by the Goon Squads for critical comments, what chance is there for poor journalists to escape the harsh punishment or even death? NP hopefully will also look into the deaths of 37 journalists during the ethnic war, including the murder of high profile Chief Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge since his case is in silent mode.

The stark fact is that there is a dictatorship in force under the 18th Amendment and all independent institutions are deemed defunct! The President is master of all he surveys, possibly with his siblings in power, and no one dare even criticize them except at their own peril! It is like "Zimbabwe of Asia". Even the UN doesn't know what to do about it! Sad.

Well, Better never than late. Ms.Navi Pillay did try several times to put the racist Genocidal Srilanka on the dock but the world so called powers like USA and India deliberately sabotaged her several times not to do so but now after four years and Srilankan racist state destroyed all the GENOCIDE evidence and the evidence or traces of any chemical weapons and banned weapons used during the 2009 Genocide of 200,000 Tamils in just two months, she is going to see the rosy picture. she must take some experts to investigate the genocide rather than visiting the bloody island just for the sake of justifying the racist srilankan ongoing structural genocide of Tamil nations and the resumptions of massive human rights violations against Muslims and Christians too.
Like the SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHDI REGIME, Srilanka must be isolated and sanctioned until it comes clean on peace and harmony by allowing international independent impartial investigations into all killing civilians since 1948 to date without any interference from any Srilankan institutions and also allowing UN referendum among the Tamils and Muslims in North and East of the island like the UN recently held in SOUTh SUDAN to know the will of the people democratically and peacefullly.

Srilanka state terrorism's war crime, crime against humanity, ethnic cleaning, and genocide has clearly been proved in many ways eye witnesses, videos, UN staffs, and satellite images, etc... Actually there is nothing more to prove about this most cruel state terrorism of the Morden human history. The sad thing is that the UN is as a regional super power's high class's family business and blindly support and protect the state terrorism in this most cruel state crime against humanity.

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