Media rights group urges UN official to push Sri Lanka on press freedom

Monday, 26 August 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A media rights watchdog, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to push Sri Lanka on press freedom when she visits the island next week on a week-long fact finding mission. The High Commissioner is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka 25-31 August ahead of next month’s regular session of the UN Human Rights Council. Pillay is scheduled to meet the President, Government and Opposition leaders, and civil society members. She will also visit the conflict-affected North and East to observe the post-war developments. The CPJ however, expressed hope that the visiting official would also meet the wit the press. “Given the abysmal state of press freedom in Sri Lanka, we hope she will also meet with journalists and press freedom advocates, including groups like Sri Lanka’s Media Alliance. They will offer a very different view of Sri Lanka than the picture President Mahinda Rajapaksa projects to the world,” the CPJ said. Recalling that the media was attacked by the security forces at the protest in Weliweriya by the people demanding clean water, CPJ said the President Rajapaksa has a record of relentlessly obstructing the independent press. “The incident underscored how the space for critical and independent reporting is quickly shrinking in the country. That does not bode well for accountability on human rights, a concern surely shared by Pillay,” CPJ said in a media statement. The New York-based media watchdog has included Sri Lanka on the list of top countries from which journalists were forced to flee in the past year. The climate for press freedom looks increasingly bleak in Sri Lanka, the CPJ says. The right group also expressed concern whether critical journalists will allow to cover the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo in November. However, the Government has assured to provide full media access saying that it is following the guidelines set by the Commonwealth Secretariat for media access.