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Government Intelligence fabricating reasons to discredit and arrest journalists, says FMM

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 22 October 2008 FMM press release:

Government Intelligence creating environment to hunt journalists

FMM expresses its serious concern over the news item which appeared in state controlled daily Dinamina on 18th October, titled "Information about ten journalists who work for Tigers exposed". The news story had the byline of one Wijayani Edirisingha. This story was given wide publicity by state controlled electronic media as well.

According to the news item, the National Intelligence Division has uncovered information on 10 journalists who disseminated news and photographs internationally, giving distorted interpretations of the humanitarian operations the government is conducting in good faith to liberate Tamil people from the clutches of terrorism.

FMM strongly believes that journalists and photographers have a right to report the war independently and disseminate information locally and internationally. The media does not have to stick to the interpretations of the government nor of the rebels on any issue. Media is duty bound to report facts accurately and cover all sides in a fair and balanced manner. At times it may hurt the government and at times it may hurt the rebels. Yet, these rights are inviolable.

This attempt through a Dinamina journalist, the FMM firmly believes, is an attempt to create an environment to hunt down more journalists. It intends to create hate and suspicion of journalists who wish to report independently on the war. This spiteful news report was backed by hate mail against journalists and media organisations.

One such news story, which appeared on 23rd June 2008, said that the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) had sent 8 Tigers to Norway. But, none of those journalists or media organisations have been charged for any related offences so far, which proves these stories are planted by intelligence agencies through state controlled media to first discredit and then to hunt down independent journalists and the media. The attempted abduction and beating up of journalist Namal Perera, Manager Advocacy, SLPI, by thugs in a white van, is clear proof of this.

These planted news stories also provide the state with an excuse to arrest journalists for "further investigations" as they say, and journalists could end up like Tissanayagam, whose release is still being deliberated in court.

FMM hopes HE the President who professes to have a very close relationship with the media will immediately censor these fabricated stories in his own state controlled media and instruct his own media authorities to refrain from such low practices against journalists.

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