As Journalists we are the eyes and ears of our communities, we report, contextualize and analyze events and issues from the front line and it is through us that much of our world is interpreted. We are privileged to have a ringside seat as history unfolds and it is our duty to disclose what we know in the public interest.
The quality of the information available through the media comes from the professionalism, ethics and courage of the journalists in the field and the media culture that supports them. The strengthening of a viable independent media in Sri Lanka is a critical step in the on going process of building democratic institutions, eliminating ethnic conflict and encouraging public participation.
Today Sri Lanka’s government has taken media suppression to the level of a martial art. In the past five years many journalists have been killed and no effective investigation has taken place in any one of those cases. Within five years a significant number of senior journalists have been forced into exile in fear for their lives and liberty. The Committee to Protect Journalists in its 2010 impunity report places Sri Lanka 4th in its impunity index even higher than Afghanistan and Russia. Media suppression and the culture of impunity is as pervasive in Sri Lanka as the air we breathe.
Any news coming out of Sri Lanka is more often than not biased, censored, or remains unsaid. Never has the media been more muzzled, more feareful and more self censored as it is today in Sri Lanka.
There is perpetrated on the media a psychology of fear through abductions, killings and other forms of pressure. The conversation has become not about what we write but about what we do not. Sri Lanka’s political regime continues to shut down outspoken websites, jail journalists, seal news papers, burn presses, withdraw licenses to radio stations, threaten activists and has doggedly refused to conduct any meaningful investigation into the murder of journalists in Sri lanka.
The government has also intensified efforts to exert control over new means of communication—including satellite television, the internet, and mobile telephones—as well as the news outlets that employ them. Worsening violence against the press and impunity for such crimes are forcing more journalists into self-censorship or exile. The level of violence and physical harassment directed at the press by both official and non-state actors is phenomenal.
This has to be looked at in the background of the restriction of the democratic space in the past five years. The breakdown of institutions, a Parliament in which ministers fail to turn up to give answers to questions, when the committee of Public Enterprises and Public Accounts Committee have been made non operational. These are committees which are now headed by members of the government, with instructions on what should be done.
We acknowledge that the world’s media has become increasingly less independent and more monetarily lascivious. They have become less willing to ask the hard questions from governments, politicians, financial institutions, corporations and conglomerates. We believe this need to be changed.
Moreover the long years of war, with the country fractured along ethnic, cultural, language and religious divides, has seen many elements of Sri Lanka’s media present stories that are biased in favour of one side or another. We believe this needs to be changed.
We believe in fair and balanced reportage and recognize the asymmetrical distribution of power amongst those about whom we report. We uphold the standards of journalism and rules of gatekeeping. We believe that it is not only the people of one country that keep their own government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government through the media.
We believe it is not the duty of the media to draw the line but rather to disclose albeit disclose responsibly.
This website stands for all those who have survived a repressive regime and a bloody war. For those who have been murdered for speaking the truth. For those who have been followed by white vans that have sort to scare and abduct them. For those who have been attacked in their cars and driven from their homes where they have spent the summers of their youth building sand castles and dreaming dreams.
Some of us feel that our country abandoned us because we became the voice of the voiceless. Because we were from the Sinhalese majority but spoke up on behalf of the Tamil minority. Because we were people of faith who spoke up on behalf of those who had no faith. We have been forced into exile but we will not shut down. Our voices will be heard.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights is universal. It was not intended to be a hostage to political fortune or the anxieties and vagaries of a given age. The right to free speech means nothing if it only sanctions politically and socially acceptable views. The Right to free speech is after all the universal right that allows us to defend all other rights.
We believe that embracing the principles of journalism means we must place the principles of journalism above politics. Those principles can be summed up in one word: respect. Respect for truth. Respect for the public’s right to know. Respect for the views of others.