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Journalists attending meetings and workshops in Sri Lanka subjected to death threats

This article was originally published on on 21 October 2014.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates the Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) in condemning death threats issued to some of the journalists who participated in the concluding ceremony of journalism training on October 15, 2014 in the capital Colombo.

The training was organized by Transparency International Sri Lanka and a number of participants including Jayasiri Jayasekara, Janoor Kichilan and Amadoru Amarajeewa, training organizers Shan Wijethunga and Ravaya consultant editor Victor Ivan all received threatening text messages. The message, sent by so-called Rata Rakagath Deshapremee Balakyaa (literally the Patriotic Force that defended the country), said: “Do not attend this LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam] meeting. You will be attacked.”

This is not the first incident in which journalists attending meetings or trainings have received threats in Sri Lanka. Since January this year, three training workshops for Tamil journalists have been abandoned due to threats and intimidations from outsiders. On July 7, the National Secretariat for NGOs, under the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development issued a circular to all NGOs preventing them from “conducting press conferences, workshops, journalism training and dissemination of press releases, claiming such activities were outside the mandate of NGOs. In July 2014, the IFJ and IFEX launched a campaign after FMM Convener Sunil Jayasekara received death threats following an FMM-hosted press conference.

FMM said: “It is our understanding that no group could threaten journalists and civil activists in such a blatant manner without the knowledge of security agencies given the current militarization in the country.”

SLWJA said: “Journalists and civil society groups have regularly been threatened and intimidated by the security apparatus and the government goons in recent times. We have strong evidence that the state intelligence units were behind the latest threats.”

SLWJA “strongly condemns the campaign of intimidation and harassment of journalists and civil society and call upon the government to detest from these heinous tactics and rein its security apparatus. The failure of the government to do so further vindicates the deficit of democratic rights in the country and the very culpability of the government in those acts.”

FMM called on the government to bring those who are responsible to justice and demonstrate that these groups do not enjoy their support.

IFJ Asia Pacific said: “It's a very disturbing pattern of threats and intimidation against journalists and civil society organizations who are active in organizing journalist trainings and advocating for media rights. Despite repeated incidents and requests from the international community, the Sri Lankan government has not brought those involved into judicial procedure thus giving us strong reason to believe that the government has no intention in countering such blatant attacks journalists on media freedom.”

The IFJ further added: “The IFJ strongly condemn the incident; and urge the government to immediately launch investigation on the incidents so to bring people behind the incidents on the judicial procedure for punishment.”

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