Nov 02, Colombo: The Free Media Movement (FMM) in Sri Lanka has called on heads of states to make a platform for freedom of expression at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo.
The FMM has made the open appeal from the heads of states to ensure that freedom of expression is respected in Sri Lanka.
The organization noted that the CHOGM summit could provide an opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of democratic governance, human rights and the freedom of expression.
The FMM pointed out that the appeal is being made in the spirit of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter of 2002 which reaffirms its commitment to freedom of expression rights.
The organization in a statement said it earnestly hoped that delegates representing democratic traditions will raise the issue of freedom of expression rights in Sri Lanka in the appropriate forums and discussions during CHOGM.
Noting that the freedom of expression rights in Sri Lanka suffered immensely during the last phase of the war, the FMM said at least thirty four journalists and media workers were killed; hundreds more abducted, assaulted and intimidated; media institutions set on fire and editors threatened. Nearly 100 journalists had to flee the country for safety.
The organization said that it has documented almost all these cases and the FMM itself has been at the receiving end in those suppressive years. Not a single case of murder, abduction or assault has been investigated to a completion and even after four years since the end of the war, perpetrators remain at large.
"Impunity has replaced the rule of law with regards to the attacks of journalists and media. Although four years has passed since the end of the war in May 2009 people in Sri Lanka are yet to enjoy their inalienable right to freedom of expression," the FMM said.
"Statements made by the United Nations High Commissioner Navi Pillay after her fact finding mission to Sri Lanka from 25th August to 30th August 2013 amply describe the prevailing intolerance and intimidation of dissenting voices including the critical media and journalists."
"The FMM believe that the CHOGM has moral responsibility to persuade the government of Sri Lanka and its president who will be the Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office for next two years to fully implement recommendations of Commonwealth observer missions that had visited the island. As the re-establishing of the freedom of expression rights and democratic checks and balances in Sri Lanka are of utmost importance and complementary to each other the FMM calls on the CHOGM to at least re emphasise the conclusions and recommendations of its own elections observer mission of 2010 and 2013," the organization further said.