Expressing deep concern over the recent surge in attacks on Sri Lankan media organisations, the US today called on the country to ensure freedom of press. "The US calls on Sri Lankan authorities to demonstrate their commitment to the rule of law and freedom of expression by conducting thorough investigations into all attacks and killings of journalists and bringing perpetrators to justice," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell, told reporters. "We urge Sri Lankan authorities to protect freedom of expression," he said, adding that the necessity of upholding this fundamental right was not only a component of the UN Human Rights Council resolution in Geneva this March but it was also central recommendation of the Sri Lankan government's own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission. The US, he said, has seen the Amnesty International report and noted that it echoes many of the concerns the US raised in its own human rights report. "So as we have said many times, we remain extremely concerned about threats to freedom of expression in Sri Lanka and continue to support the need for justice and accountability for serious human rights abuses in Sri Lanka," he said. As part of the "Free the Press" campaign, Ventrell highlighted the case of Utheyan, a Tamil-language newspaper in Sri Lanka. "Utheyan has seen its personnel beaten, its newspaper shipments burned, its equipment destroyed and its offices set ablaze in this last month alone.
The assault on the free press in Sri Lanka extends beyond Utheyan," he said. "The BBC Tamil-language service has had its programmes about Sri Lanka and the Human Rights Council censored. Reporters have been physically assaulted and murdered in years past, and a prominent political cartoonist has been missing for three years," Ventrell said.