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IFEX MEMBERS CALL FOR UN ACTION

Alarmed by statements from Sri Lankan authorities threatening journalists, 31 IFEX members and partners signed a joint letter on 20 June asking for United Nations action. The letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, initiated by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), says the statements "put journalists in grave danger."

Commentaries published on 5 June on the Defence Ministry website labelled journalists critical of Sri Lanka's war effort against Tamil rebels as "enemies of the state" and said the armed forces would take "all necessary measures to stop this journalistic treachery." The ministry singled out for criticism the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFEX member.

Signatories of the letter said these statements "risk encouraging those who have used extreme violence against journalists and other news professionals." It cited UN Security Council Resolution 1738 on journalism in conflict zones, which urges all parties in armed conflicts to respect the professional independence and rights of journalists and associated personnel.

Last January, the letter adds, Army Commander Maj.-Gen. Sarath Fonseka "labelled some journalists as traitors." In November 2007, a strike by the Sri Lankan Air Force against the radio station of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) killed at least three editorial staff.

The letter asked the Secretary-General to urge all UN member states to respect Resolution 1738, and to help persuade the Sri Lankan government to withdraw these statements and stop all actions undermining the independence and safety of the news community.

On 14 June, FMM reported a telephone death threat against investigative journalist Frederica Jansz, editor of the monthly "Montage" and South Asia co-coordinator of the International News Safety Institute (INSI).

As "appeals for redress from the government and law enforcement agencies on hundreds of threats to media during the last year have completely failed," FMM stated, "we appeal to all local and international democratic actors to ensure that the safety of journalists and media freedom is protected in Sri Lanka."

Visit these links:
- Joint action by IFEX members: http://tinyurl.com/5khmee
- FMM response to attacks: http://tinyurl.com/695ktn
- Threats against INSI co-ordinator: http://tinyurl.com/3s7nkb
(24 June 2008)

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