Bishop appeals over media attacks in Sri Lanka

By staff writers
9 Feb 2011

A senior Anglican bishop in Sri Lanka has condemned the "continuing attacks on media and the connected activities", including nonviolent protest.

The appeal for "those in authority to ensure democratic freedom of the people" comes following an attack on the office of Lanka e News.

The Rt Rev Kumara Ilangasinghe, Bishop Emeritus of Kurunagala, has previously been involved with peace and justice initiatives alongside the Roman Catholic Bishops of Jaffna, Mannar and Anuradhapura and the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, the Rt Rev Duleep de Chikera.

The full statement reads as follows:

It is with much regret and distress that we have noted the continuing attacks on media and the connected activities. We vehemently condemn the attack on the office of Lanka e News which has caused a tremendous damage costing over fifteen million. The attack on the non-violent protest that was held in Colombo to create awareness among general public on continuing threats to media freedom too is a clear indication of the absence of opportunity for dissemination of information in our country today. All these have happened around the time that we as a nation was commemorating the sixty third Independence of the country. That is why many of us feel that it is certainly and can only be a commemoration and not a celebration. A commemoration should ideally give us an opportunity to reflect on the reality and move forward.

Also it is regretting to note that one year has passed without any information on the abduction of the Lanka e news journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda and many other media personnel. Many of them are living outside this country for fear of their lives. There is intense pressure on the media and those who are concerned about protecting the people’s right to information. This reality speaks volumes for those who are responsible for these attacks, who are frightened of this information and the revelations. Investigative journalism has suffered immensely in our country over the years. This affects our international reputation and is a continuing threat to the democratic values and institutions that have sustained our beloved society. We once again emphasise that this situation does not indicate any signs of a nation that is striving towards authentic development or a civilised society after a prolonged conflict.

How sad and foolish are those who inflict harm of this nature, who also appear to be affected and intent on suppression of the revelations and the investigations of the journalists, believe that opinion can be silenced by such brutality. They ought to remember that freedom is breath of life, not just of any person but also of a nation. We applaud the many in our community who are willing and committed to make any sacrifices to preserve that ‘breath of life’.

It remains the responsibility of all concerned and especially those in authority to ensure democratic freedom of the people, if Sri Lanka is to be taken seriously as a Democratic Socialist Republic. We call upon the government and especially the Ministry of Media, and all other political parties together with other civil society organisations, to ensure the freedom of journalism and access to information by providing sufficient security to journalists and media institutions and there by to ensure the right of expression and the right to information in our country.

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