December 11, 2019
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    US funded training programs targeting one geographical region, ethnic group hampers reconciliation efforts - MEA

    August 01, 2014

    The attention of the Ministry of External Affairs has been drawn to a media statement issued by the US Embassy on 28th July expressing concerns on media freedom in Sri Lanka. The statement refers to incidents surrounding the cancellation by the organizers, of a training organized for Jaffna based journalists, funded by the US government through Rights Now Collective for Democracy, which is registered under the Companies Act.

    The Ministry of External Affairs issuing a press release said that the basis for such training programmes to be funded through the US Embassy is unclear, particularly when the target group has been limited to one geographical region and ethnic group. It is also unfortunate that the Embassy statement chose to ignore the responses provided by the Government following queries raised over the weekend on this issue by US government officials in a spirit of reciprocal engagement, both in Colombo and in Washington D.C., further states the release.

    The “circumstances surrounding the cancellation” of the event according to the statement, appear to be the protest that reportedly took place against the conduct of the Workshop, which has been denounced by the US Embassy. It is noteworthy that the rights of these protesters to the freedom of assembly and expression are being inappropriately questioned by the Embassy, which further on in the same statement refers to these principles in the context of “those who interfere with both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly”.  The US Embassy appears to be selectively upholding these fundamental principles in Sri Lanka, depending on who is exercising the right, whereas such protests have been taking place all over the world, including in the USA, and on numerous occasions organized by extremist elements against the Sri Lankan State.

    Given the sensitivities involved when the country is going through a sensitive process of national reconciliation, restrictively targeting a specific group of people from a particular community or region can lead to a perpetuation of mistrust among communities, seriously hampering reconciliation efforts.

    Further, if the Embassy had expressed concern about the reports of intimidation of media personnel the Ministry states it would have expected the sharing of specific details of such intimidation and harassment in the spirit of constructive engagement, without making judgmental statements based on erroneous and biased information. (mea/sdf)

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