Sri Lankan security service list 'intimidates' journalists

Amnesty has accused the Sri Lankan government of seeking to intimidate journalists after the emergence of a list of 35 journalists and NGO officers who are said to be of interest to the country’s secret services.

According to Amnesty, each individual is graded according to their importance to the intelligence services.

The charity’s media director Mike Blakemore said: “Such a blatant leak can have only one purpose and that is to intimidate those individuals on the list and deter anyone from speaking to them.

“Journalists are often at the forefront of protecting and defending individuals’ human rights. It is their bravery that can help expose abuses and bring them to an end.

“Sri Lanka needs to respect media freedom and allow human rights defenders to go about their work freely and without harassment.”

According to Amnesty at least 14 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of 2006. It says that more than 20 journalists have left the country in response to death threats.

Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge foresaw his own killing in January 2009 and wrote an editorial which was published posthumously in his paper, the Sunday Leader.

In it he said: “No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces – and, in Sri Lanka, journalism.

“In the course of the last few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print institutions have been burned, bombed, sealed and coerced.

“Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories, and now especially the last.”

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