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Amnesty, CPJ, RSF call for probe into Channel-4 video death threats

[TamilNet, Thursday, 29 October 2009 12:26 No Comment]

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International, and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), three premier watchdogs on media freedom, independently called Sri Lanka to investigate into the death threats received by two senior editors of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader for the editors’ coverage of the Channel-4 broadcast video which showed armed Sri Lankan soldiers allegedly executing Tamil prisoners stripped naked and hands tied behind their backs. “The air of impunity surrounding violence against the media is having a chilling effect on journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

Calls for proper forensic analysis of the video are emanating from the highest levels of the United Nations, where Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told Inner City Press that before commissioning his own analysis of the video, Alston "would have liked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights" Navi Pillay to have undertaken an investigation.

However, Sri Lanka is going after the editors of popular English publication that continues to cover the developing story on the Channel-4 video, according civil society activists in Colombo.

Anonymous letters with death threats, at left, recently sent to Sunday Leader Editor-in-Chief Frederica Jansz and News Editor Munza Mushtaq echo those that ended in the death of the paper’s founder, Lasantha Wickramatunga, in January, CPJ said in its release.

“Our concern is that these most recent threats, like so many others, and the deaths of 11 journalists since President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power in 2006, will remain unexplained and those behind them will remain unprosecuted,” Dietz added.

“It is also vital that the authorities order the security forces to put a stop to their unwarranted summonses and arrests of journalists, and to register the complaints submitted by journalists when they are physically attacked," RSF said in its condemnation of the impunity prevailing in Sri Lanka.

"Jansz said the letters she and Mushtaq received last week were identical and warned them that they would be killed unless they stopped writing," AFP reported.

Following worldwide concern of the death threats, "Sri Lanka’s president ordered police to probe death threats against journalists of a newspaper whose founding editor was murdered earlier this year," AFP said quoting a Sri Lanka Government spokesman.

[Full Coverage]

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