12/30/2009

Sri Lanka; a concern for Reporters Without Borders in Press freedom Review 2009


(December 30, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Reporters Without Borders says its concern in 2009 has been the mass exodus of journalists from repressive countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka. The authorities in these countries have understood that by pushing journalists into exile, they can drastically reduce pluralism of ideas and the amount of criticism they attract. “This is a dangerous tendency and it must be very strongly condemned,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said as the review of Press freedom in 2009 was released.

The review says that the Journalists are most at risk in the Americas (501 cases), particularly when they expose drug-trafficking or local potentates. Asia comes next with 364 cases of this kind, chiefly in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

"Media access is not always properly observed, as evidenced in provincial polling in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka," says the report. "The courage shown by journalists this year before and after elections earned them periods in custody, mistreatment and prison sentences that were in some cases extremely harsh. These post-election crackdowns should stimulate the international community to seek better ways of protecting the press after rigged election results are announced.


“This wave of violence bodes ill for 2010, when crucial elections are scheduled in Côte d’Ivoire, Sri Lanka, Burma, Iraq and the Palestinian Territories” said Reporters Without Borders, which often carries out media monitoring during election campaigns."

At least 167 journalists are in prison around the world at the end of 2009. One would need to go back to the 1990s to find so many of them in jail. Although the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression keeps reiterating that imprisonment is a disproportionate punishment for press offences, many governments keep laws that allow them to jail journalists, and continue to abuse these laws. The sentences given to journalists in Cuba, China, Sri Lanka and Iran are as harsh as those imposed for terrorism or violent crime.

For the first time, the Reporters Without Borders annual roundup includes figures for journalists who have been forced to leave their countries because of threats to their lives or liberty. A total of 157 journalists went into exile in the past year, often in very harsh conditions. Among the countries where the exodus of journalists and bloggers was particularly dramatic were Iran, with more than 50 fleeing, and Sri Lanka, with 29.

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