Sri Lankan Ambassador Outraged by Attacks on Journalists
Invites Journalist Delegation to Sri Lanka
to Observe Freedoms Firsthand
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 6, 2009) – In response to a meeting yesterday at the Embassy of Sri Lanka with a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Ambassador for Sri Lanka to the United States, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, reaffirmed the Government of Sri Lanka's outrage for attacks on journalists and commitment to supporting media freedom. He also encouraged delegation members to meet with a cross section of reporters actively working in the country to learn firsthand more about the current situation.
“The Government of Sri Lanka is perturbed by threats against media workers and especially repulsed by the alleged attacks on media workers,” said the Ambassador. “The Government in no way condones or endorses any such attacks. Further, the Embassy would be pleased to facilitate any visits by journalists and arrange meetings with appropriate officials. If formal complaints have been made on alleged threats or harassment, the Embassy will pursue them with the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka for appropriate action.”
During the meeting, the Ambassador stressed that media freedom exists in full force in Sri Lanka and journalists enjoy freedom of reporting and commenting on events in Sri Lanka, subject to limitations constitutionally placed on them. It was pointed out that those who have violated laws in the country have been subject to arrest and detention and brought under the due process that exists in Sri Lanka. Those laws are applicable to journalists as well.
One such example are the issues relating to the arrest and detention and upcoming trial of journalist J.S. Tissanayagam. The Ambassador pointed out that a confession made by Tissanayagam has been admitted and the defence has been called for March 20, 2009.
It was noted that due process is observed in all cases of arrest and detention and journalists would go through this process when they are brought to trial. Concerns were expressed by the delegation that investigations into the incidents pertaining to journalists are taking a long time and the government must expedite this process. It was assured to the delegation that the investigations have been launched in all these cases and the government will be taking steps to bring these offenders to trial.
On the question of non disclosure of information, relating to the ongoing investigations, it was pointed out that the magistrate gets periodic reports about the progress of ongoing investigations. The Ambassador pointed out that complete transparency prevails in regards to journalists, and he is committed to hosting future meetings to iron out any concerns that might arise. For more information, log onto www.slembassyusa.org.