Dec 04, Colombo: Sri Lanka remains firm in its commitment to work with the international community, including UNESCO, to work towards ending impunity for crimes against journalists, and to uphold the rights of journalists around the world who place themselves at risk every day, to give voice to the voiceless, Minister of Finance and Mass Media, Mangala Samaraweera said.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the UNESCO regional conference on "Reinforcing Regional Cooperation to Promote Freedom of Expression and the Rule of Law in Asia through Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists", held Monday in Colombo Minister Samaraweera said Sri Lanka has succeeded in creating the safe space required for freedom of expression.
He said choosing Colombo as the venue for the seminar is significant for several reasons since Sri Lanka not too long ago used to be a most unsafe place for journalists.
The Minister said Sri Lanka still has a long way to go in terms of completing investigations into past crimes, including murder of journalists in the past, but the event gives the important opportunity to reflect on the past, and resolve to never allow a recurrence of that dangerous past in the country, for journalists, ever again.
"it is an occasion for us in Sri Lanka to recognize, that while we have succeeded to a large extent in creating the safe space required for freedom of expression, we must keep on working hard to sustain and safeguard this space, and that we still have a long way to go in terms of completing investigations into past crimes, including the murder of journalists in the past."
The Minister emphasized that recognizing and acknowledging that justice is crucial and essential, because impunity will leave open the danger of the recurrence of the heinous crimes that occurred in the past.
"Therefore, this is an important occasion for us locally, to renew our commitment to justice, in memory of all the journalists who have been silenced, and in recognition of the importance of a free and independent media, for advancing peace, development, and good governance in our country."
The Seminar which brings together regional stakeholders, and focuses on areas such as the role of the judiciary, National Human Rights Commissions as well as civil society and media in the challenge of combating impunity for crimes against journalists in the region, will be an invaluable opportunity for sharing experiences and best practice in this important area, the Minister underscored. This will help Sri Lanka learn from others as well as share its own experiences, he noted.