Speaking at a media conference to launch “Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression in Sri Lanka: Struggle for survival“, a damning new report on the state of Sri Lankan media drafted by over a dozen leading international human rights and media freedom organisations and based on a mission to Sri Lanka in October 2006, Sunanda Deshapriya, Spokesperson of the Free Media Movement said that the FMM, the SLWJA, the SLMMF, the SLTMA and the FMETU, the five largest journalist organisations and trade unions in Sri Lanka, were completely open to any official investigation into any allegations of complicity with the LTTE and terrorism, and would give such an inquiry their fullest support and cooperation.
Stating there were clear attempts to stifle free media and the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, Sunanda went on to say that journalists were extremely fearful of the hate speech directed against them. Recalling the actions of Radio Mille Colline just before the Rwandan genocide and with pointed reference to comments made by leading figures in the government, Sunanda expressed his concern for security of journalists and increasingly stifled free media in Sri Lanka. Radio Mille Colline, or RTLM, blasted out its message of hate in the months before the Rwandan genocide. An ostensibly private radio station, it was however, connected to the Government. For months before the genocide, it told Hutus all over the country that the Tutsis wanted to take over, and it was a case of kill, or be killed. Once the genocide started, the radio was instrumental in the organisation. It named people to be killed, it broadcasted where Tutsis were hiding, and it encouraged people to go out and kill.
In the absence of any investigation into allegations of misdemeanour or the allegations of aiding and abetting terrorists, Sunanda appealed to all those harassing journalists – branding them as terrorists, a threat to national security and inciting hatred and violence against them – to desist.
The FMM has recently been under fire for allegedly supporting three trade union members and journalists with who had colluded with the LTTE. The FMM has categorically denied these allegations and an earlier missive by Sunanda to Groundviews explores the heated furore over this incident from a personal perspective.