As I posted my article titled “War Without Reporters and War On Reporters alike” on sunday (Jan.11) early morning, I’ve got an email from FCCT (Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand) which informed me the following letter.
I’m not quite sure if FCCT emailed this to all its members on mailing list, as the email form looked a bit different from what I’ve collectively received. Anyway, I appreciate the FCCT’s ‘protesting letter’.
H.E. President Mahinda Rajapakse
Office of the President
Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / 2446657
9 January 2009
The professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand wishes to place on record its unreserved dismay at the apparently pre-meditated murder of yet another distinguished Sri Lankan journalist, Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of Sunday Leader, on Thursday morning, 8 January.
While all loss of life in the complex political and ethnic strife afflicting Sri Lanka is to be deplored equally, it should be noted that the targeting of journalists, as well as other critical local observers, dates back almost to the start of the conflict in the 1980s. One of the more widely known journalist murders, that of Richard de Zoysa in early 1990 during the political violence in the south, remains officially unsolved.
Full and independent inquiries into those responsible for attacks on the press and associated murders have not been carried out. There is concern that death squads are in play in Sri Lanka, and that a culture of impunity has emerged. Within the overall population, more than 50 extrajudicial killings have been recorded for the month of October alone last year.
Between ten and 15 journalists and people working in media have been killed in the last two years. Many more in the industry have been arrested or otherwise harassed by the police and figures in authority. Tactics used against them include curtailed broadcasting licenses and torched presses. These constitute a grave assault on a free and objective press.
By all accounts, Thursday’s killing of Wickrematunga was well planned. It followed a military-style assault two days earlier on the premises of MTV/MBC in Colombo that obliterated the facility’s radio and television infrastructure. Concerns have already been raised that some kind of covert campaign to suppress the media and others is under way with no prospect of anybody being officially called to account.
We respectfully urge you to initiate an immediate, independent and transparent investigation into this sustained attack on individuals who are committed to press freedom and the right of ordinary people in Sri Lanka to know the truth about what is happening in their land.
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand