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IPI and IFJ issue report on press freedom situation in Eastern Provinces

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 12 November 2007 joint IFJ and IPI press release:

IPI and IFJ issue report on the Press Freedom Situation in Sri Lanka's Eastern Provinces

The civil war, internal displacement, limited access to information and restrictions on journalists' freedom of movement have proved to be great obstacles to press freedom in Sri Lanka, particularly in the country's Eastern Provinces.

These are some of the findings of the fact-finding mission by representatives of the International Press Institute (IPI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Sri Lankan Free Media Movement (FMM), to Sri Lanka's eastern provinces in June 2007. The report is a follow-up to a previous Mission report titled, "Jaffna's media in the grip of terror", which highlighted the extreme dangers for journalists working there. A further report on the national media in Colombo will be released shortly.

The Mission report states that journalists in Sri Lanka's Eastern provinces are unable to fulfil their role, except to record and broadcast the pronouncements of the government and others in this highly polarised environment. One senior journalist even stated, "Journalists are reduced to being stenographers for the government."

Journalists from the Eastern Provinces' Muslim community feel that issues related to their community and its interests are also underreported. However, this seems to be part of a more general trend in which news stories related to the districts enjoy little priority in the national press and even significant news stories in the provinces are assigned to reporters from the national capital, rather than journalists resident in the region.

Furthermore, restrictions on journalists' freedom of movement and access to information are often based on ethnic and sectarian grounds, and a further limitation on journalists' ability to report.

The Mission recommended that local authorities ensure journalists' access to information and a safe working environment. Editors in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo were also encouraged to visit the districts more often in order to appreciate the realities of reporting in the provinces.

The mission to the Eastern Provinces was undertaken as a part of the broader International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka in June that included representatives from the International Press Institute (IPI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), the South Asian Free Media Association and International Media Support (IMS). The Mission was supported in Sri Lanka by the Free Media Movement, the Working Journalists' Association, the Tamil Media Alliance, the Muslim Media Forum, the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, and the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

The report is available on the IPI website on:

International Press Institute

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