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Sri Lanka has relinquished its role as "keeper of the peace" for failing to prevent attacks on journalists and to bring those responsible to account, say 40 organisations, the majority of them IFEX members. Led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the 40 groups have joined forces in an international campaign to "stop the war on journalists" in the conflict-ridden country.

In a joint letter to the Sri Lankan president, the 40 organisations demanded an immediate change to the "escalating culture of violence against journalists by government officials and members of the public."

The letter details at least two dozen incidents of violence against journalists since the start of 2008 alone, making Sri Lanka one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the Asia-Pacific. In many cases, the authorities publicly vilified journalists, putting them further at risk. In one example, the government's own Labour Minister, Mervyn Silva, is allegedly linked to many of the continuing threats and attacks against employees of Sri Lanka's state-run television station SLRC, who witnessed his assault on an SLRC employee in December.

"In not one case of attack or threat have the police taken action to bring offenders to account, in accordance with due legal process," says the joint letter.

The letter is the first of a series of actions for the "Stop the War on Journalists" campaign for Sri Lanka which will culminate with World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

A global day of action has been called for 10 April. This day, which falls two days before Sri Lanka's Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations, is intended to send a message of support to local journalists' organisations, such as IFEX member Free Media Movement, who have continued their fight for press freedom despite high risks to their personal safety.

"Our colleagues in Sri Lanka need to know that the international press freedom and human rights communities stand in solidarity with them and support their tireless work," says IFJ.

IFJ is inviting all journalists' associations, media organisations and press freedom and human rights groups to join the campaign by adding their name to the joint letter as well as by sending their own letters to the Sri Lankan embassies in their countries on 10 April.

To join the campaign, contact: ifj(@)ifj-asia(.)org and see:

(1 April 2008)

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