Aug 27, Colombo: Several international media watchdogs have jointly asked the United Nations High commissioner for Human Rights Navanetham (Navi) Pillay to push Sri Lanka for freedom of press and accountability on crimes committed against journalists.
In an open letter to Pillay, who is currently visiting Sri Lanka on a fact -finding mission, France-based media right group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its partner organization, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) have jointly requested the UN official "to be uncompromising in her search for accountability on grave crimes committed against journalists and media freedom."
"Reporters Without Borders and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka expect the High Commissioner to be firm in securing a transparent commitment from the Sri Lankan government to bring justice to those who have been victims of grave crimes against media freedom," the letter requested.
The group, calling attention to the robbery attempt at the residence of the president of the newly formed Sri Lanka Journalists' Trade Union (SLJTU) and Associate Editor of Sunday Leader Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema on the eve of Pillay's visit to the island, said the media watchdogs were highly suspicious of the attack as two of the suspects arrested were Army deserters.
"As long as crimes against the media and its workforce go unpunished, while perpetrators feel safe with the implicit assurance of impunity, media freedom in Sri Lanka is facing a grave threat. We urge Navi Pillay to remind Sri Lanka's leaders of their accountability in delivering justice," said the two organisations.
Sri Lanka's human rights record has come under international scrutiny following the allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during government's war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists.
Comparing the government's "apparent unwillingness" to address threats to media freedom to the same "high handed manner that the Sri Lankan government handled rights activists and organisations during the war", the group urged the High Commissioner to evaluate media freedom in the environment of the government's overall human rights record challenged by many entities including the UN.