By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Reporters Without Borders demands that the media be allowed to enter the northern part of Sri Lanka where the military and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are in the midst of a 20 year battle. Because of the stronghold, tens of thousands of civilians are trapped between forces. More than 2,000 are believed to have died. Yet no confirmations on this estimation exist since journalists and humanitarian aid are prohibited from the area.
“With a major humanitarian crisis and war crimes clearly taking place, the government must heed the international community’s calls for a ceasefire and for better access for humanitarian workers and journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is a disgrace that this war is being waged without independent journalists present. And by preventing thousands of innocent civilians from moving freely, the Tamil Tiger rebels bear a large share of the responsibility for these crimes.”
It added, “By limiting media coverage to guided tours with the purpose of confirming military victories, the armed forces are preventing the press from doing its job and are disregarding the public’s right to be informed in an independent manner.”
The government said that only nine journalists had been killed and 27 had been assaulted over the past three years. Private activists state that over twelve have been killed. Human rights groups cite to Sri Lanka as the third most dangerous place for journalists.
The United Nations estimates there are still 100,000 civilians trapped. Since the beginning of the war in 1983, government security forces have contained the Tigers to the coastal jungle of the Vanni,located in the northeastern region.
The government has been accused of violating international human rights laws by shooting in their safety zones, even schools and hospitals. On the other hand, the Tigers have been claimed to prevent civilians from leaving, using them as human shields and forcing them, including children, into their ranks.
For more information, please see:
AFP – Sri Lankan Media Ban “A Disgrace”: Rights Group – 11 April 2009
Reporters Without Borders – Call for Journalists to be Let into Area Where “A Major Humanitarian Crisis” is Unfolding With No Media Presence – 10 April 2009
Reuters – Short Sri Lanka Truce Over, Doors Open to Final Fight – 15 April 2009