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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
US NGO Forum on Sri Lanka condemns press censorship
The US NGO Forum on Sri Lanka in a Press Release on 11 June 1998 condemned the press censorship imposed by Sri Lanka on 5 June 1998:
"On June 5, the Government of Sri Lanka suddenly imposed full, strict censorship of all reports relating to the war being fought in the north and east of the island. Local and international coverage of the war is prohibited, as is any discussion by the media of the actions of police and military officials. All reports, photographs, and videotapes must pass a military censor, army general Jaliya Nammuni.
This is the first time a military censor has been appointed; in the past, such as most recently in 1995, the censors have been civilians. The US NGO Forum on Sri Lanka, a non-partisan network of organizations in the United States working for human rights and peace in Sri Lanka, condemns the imposition of this censorship.
Despite Sri Lanka's claim to being a democracy, the government has often interfered with the media. Particularly where the war is concerned, government control has been prevalent. Journalists have consistently been forbidden from entering conflict zones, often referred to as "uncleared areas."
It is extremely distressing that while the media has been allowed to report fully on conflicts such as Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and even Chechnya, a tragedy is being played out behind closed doors on this small island.
In a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Forum stated, "The censorship seems to indicate a lack of respect for the basic freedoms of speech and information. It is our fear that the censorship will weaken the government and security forces' accountability in Sri Lanka and decrease the possibilities for respect of human rights."
The Forum strongly urged the government to immediately lift the censorship, and to adhere to its previously stated commitment to freedom of the press.
Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace 110 Maryland Avenue, N.E. Box 70 Washington, D.C. 20002 Tel: 202-543-1094 Fax: 202-546-5103 E-Mail: [email protected]