The Free Media Movement condemns, without hesitation, the provocative and hate-filled attacks being carried on by the state media, targeting three prominent Sri Lankan human rights defenders.
The reason behind these attacks is that they have participated in the sessions of the UN Human Rights Council and expressed their opinions with regard to human rights in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan citizens are entitled to the right to hold a dissenting opinion by the Constitution itself, and the right to engage with the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations is internationally recognized.
Over two decades ago, our President and several other political leaders of the government used these rights in order to take a stand on human rights nationally, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, and internationally, in collaboration including with the United Nations. The Free Media movement accepts that, then and now, human rights activists are committed to the same objectives.
The recommendations of the Lesson Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which are the subject of discussion today, affirm that true progress cannot be achieved without first affirming the rights of Sri Lankan citizens to the freedoms of expression, speech and association. The Free Media Movement believes that the frightening and hate-filled propaganda campaign launched by the state media is directly subverting the recommendations of the LLRC, which the government stands committed to implement.
Sunila Abeysekera, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Nimalka Fernando, who are the current targets of the state media, are all three human rights activists who are well recognised in Sri Lanka and abroad as well as within their communities. We can say without reservation that they have played an enormous role, with commitment, in the securing of people’s rights within Sri Lanka. Rupavahini, the state television channel, ITN and the Lake House group of newspapers, all of which are under direct state control, are presently using their photographs and engaging in a violent campaign against them, based on falsehoods. The Free Media Movement expresses its concern that this contemptible campaign which is portraying these human rights activists as LTTE supporters could result in an actual threat to their lives.
We also want to point out that in the past, members of the Free Media Movement who participated in sessions of the UN Human Rights Council have been subjected to the same kind of violent and false campaign; these threats remain today.
We appeal to the relevant authorities to respect the rights of Sri Lankan human rights activists and to refrain from any actions that could place their lives at risk. We also call on the government to fulfill irs obligations in guaranteeing the safety and security of Sunila Abeysekera, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Nimalka Fernando who are the targets of the hate campaign of the government at this time.