Director-General condemns killing of Sri Lankan journalist Iyer BalanadarajahUNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today condemned the murder of Iyer Balanadarajah, better known as Sinna Baia, a reporter of the Tamil weekly Thinamurasu, and called for a full investigation of the killing, the second assassination of a journalist in Sri Lanka this year.
“I condemn the killing of Iyer Balanadarajah which, like all killings of journalists, constitutes a cowardly attack on democracy and rule of law,” Mr Matsuura declared. “I am confident that the authorities will spare no effort in investigating this killing, the second murder of this type this year. In view of the tragic violence that has marked so much of Sri Lanka’s recent history, it is essential that freedom of the press be allowed to take root, if peace and democracy are to be sustained.”
According to the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Border, Mr Balanadarajah’s newspaper has been subject to harassment from the insurgent Tamil Tigers (LTTE) movement. The NGO reports that another journalist working for the paper, Sadacharalingham Kamalathasan, was shot and wounded in the Batticaloa district, east of the capital Colombo. It also says that the Tamil Tigers earlier this year tried to stop distribution of the paper in the eastern part of the country. Aiyathurai Nadesan, a Tamil journalist with the daily Virakesari Tamil, was shot dead on 31 May.
UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this purpose the Organization is required to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”.