ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s finance and mass media minister has said the country was no longer unsafe for journalists but that it was important to ensure justice for victims as impunity will enable past crime to be repeated.
“For the media to be able to fulfil its important role in a democracy, journalists, media workers, bloggers, media organizations and individuals must be able to discuss and debate issues freely and safely,” Mangala Samaraweera said.
Freedom of expression is a basic human right, and one of the most important components of every democratic nation, he told the UNESCO regional conference on promoting freedom of expression and the rule of law through ending impunity for crimes against journalists.
“(It was) an essential component for democracy to function as it should,” he said.
Colombo being chosen as the venue for the event was significant for several reasons, Samaraweera said.
“First, it is an occasion for us in Sri Lanka to remind ourselves, and acknowledge, that our country used to be a most unsafe place for journalists, not too long ago.
“It gives us the important opportunity to reflect on our past, and resolve to never allow a recurrence of that dangerous past in our country, for journalists, ever again.”
Samaraweera also said that it was an occasion for Sri Lanka to recognize, that while it has succeeded to a large extent in creating the safe space required for freedom of expression, it must keep on working hard to sustain and safeguard this space.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of completing investigations into past crimes, including the murder of journalists in the past,” Samaraweera said.
“It is also an occasion for us in Sri Lanka to recognize and acknowledge that justice is crucial and essential, because impunity will leave open the danger of the recurrence of the heinous crimes that occurred in the past.
“Therefore, this is an important occasion for us locally, to renew our commitment to justice, in memory of all the journalists who have been silenced, and in recognition of the importance of a free and independent media, for advancing peace, development, and good governance in our country. “
(COLOMBO, December 4, 2017)