Journalist in exile vows to fight on for media freedom in Sri Lanka

Sanath Balasuriya, former president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, has written to the SLWJA detailing the efforts he and his team of office bearers made in the interests of media freedom during his tenure as chairman.

Sanath Balasuriya

Mr. Balasuriya, who is living in exile, said he was writing on behalf of all those SLWJA members, including himself, who were forced to flee the country after receiving death threats in various forms.

Mr. Balasuriya said that as president of the journalists’ association he, along with the other SLWJA members, had fearlessly taken on the challenges they were faced with in safeguarding press freedom, something that had been neglected for some time, and safeguarding the democratic and human rights of media personnel.

Among issues highlighted in Mr. Balasuriya’s letter was the attack on staff of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation by Minister Mervyn Silva in 2007. That incident, he said, marked the beginning of a series of threats to members of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association. Some members were kept under house arrest in the early part of 2008. They were not allowed freedom of movement, and their lives were under threat, the letter said. During this period, the SLWJA members were compelled to move to places where they felt safe.

“It was with Poddala Jayantha [the present SLWJA president] that we had to leave the country to keep safe our lives. But he came back when he found that the situation improved but the fate he had to face is something unprecedented in the annals of our trade union,” the letter said.

Mr. Balasuriya said the fight for democracy and human rights will continue. “We will not cease to fight for what we believe in till we have our breath. That is because we are fighting for social justice and human rights,” he said.

Mr. Balasuriya said the Sri Lankan journalists in exile would continue to support the SLWJA’s new office bearers. He thanked all local and foreign media organisations, and civil and human rights organisations, for their help during the time they held office.

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