Transparency International Sri Lanka received death threats following workshops to train journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists, Front Line Defenders, the International Press Institute, and Reporters without Borders join with the anti-corruption movement Transparency International to express concern about the escalating intimidation of civil society activists, human rights defenders and journalists and call on the Sri Lankan authorities to take firm action to protect the safety of civil society.
2014 has been marked by a steady escalation in harassment and intimidation targeting civil society activists and journalists. There has been systematic disruption of trainings for journalists on how to report corruption organised by Transparency International Sri Lanka. Five workshops organised by Transparency International Sri Lanka have been disrupted, with some participants and organisers receiving death threats. Officials of the state are implicated in the intimidation and interference in civil society activities.
State obstruction, widespread impunity for threats and attacks, and a restrictive regulatory environment have created a disabling environment for civil society in Sri Lanka. Under jeopardy are freedom of expression and association, and the right to operate free from unwarranted state interference.
Recognising the rights enshrined in the Sri Lankan constitution and as a signatory of fundamental human rights and anti-corruption treaties, the Sri Lankan authorities must take immediate and firm action to create an enabling environment for civil society and promptly investigate all cases of intimidation and attacks on journalists, anti-corruption and human rights activists.
Elena Panfilova, vice-chair of Transparency International said: “Citizens must have a clear, unobstructed ability to openly denounce corruption and hold leaders to account. When Transparency International Sri Lanka trains journalists it should be supported not attacked.”
Robert Dietz, Asia Programme Manager of CPJ: “The Sri Lankan government is determined to suppress media to the point that it will even stifle efforts to improve the quality of journalism through training. Threats and physical intimidation have become the norm for any journalist or organization that doesn’t toe the government line.”
Mary Lawlor, Director of Front Line Defenders said: "Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned that human rights defenders including journalists and civil society members in Sri Lanka are experiencing increasing level of threats, harassment and intimidation both from the state agencies and non-state agencies. In several occasions evidence clearly shows that the non-state actors are being supported by state authorities."
Barbara Trionfi, Deputy Director of the International Press Institute said: “The International Press Institute applauds Transparency International Sri Lanka’s efforts to promote a journalism that addresses serious social concerns, such as corruption. We urge the Sri Lankan authorities to bring to a halt any practice aimed at preventing TISL from carrying out its work; and severely condemn those responsible for any form of threat and harassment.”
Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Asia-Pacific desk at Reporters Without Borders, said: “When the government formally warned NGOs last July not to act outside their mandate by giving press conferences, training for journalists or putting out press releases, it encouraged the harassment of journalists and NGO workers. We urge the international community and the Commonwealth in particular to condemn these threats to free speech and media freedom.”
In the coming weeks the campaign to elect the next president of Sri Lanka will begin. Transparency International Sri Lanka will work with journalists and civil society activists to ensure that the campaign is fair and free from abuse of public resources by political parties.
The government and the security services must ensure that the environment for them to perform these legitimate and important functions is safe and free from harassment and intimidation.
 Sri Lanka has ratified the international Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
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Committee for the Protection of Journalists
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Front Line Defenders
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International Press Institute
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Reporters without Borders
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