Sri Lanka must act on violence against media: Amnesty

Sri Lankan Police forming a human chain in parliament to protect the Speaker and enable a vote.

LONDON, January 23, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lankan authorities must ensure that the island’s media can work freely and safely, Amnesty International said Friday, as a string of violent attacks against reporters escalated. “By threatening journalists with the risk of arrest, and failing to protect them from attack, the government is failing its citizens.” The London-based human rights group’s call came after assailants beat a newspaper editor and smashed his car as he drove to work Friday, according to colleagues.

“The Sri Lankan authorities are doing little to ensure the safety of the country’s media, or to prosecute those responsible for murdering or attacking them,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty’s Sri Lanka researcher.

“They are also directly responsible for subjecting journalists to harassment and interrogation,” she alleged.

According to official figures, nine journalists had been killed in the past three years while 27 have been attacked.

The government has promised investigations, but no one has been brought to justice.

“Without a free media that is able to express alternative views and offer the opportunity for public scrutiny, abuses can flourish under a veil of secrecy and denial,”