Director-General of UNESCO condemns murder of Sri Lankan journalist Sampath Lakmal de SilvaThe Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today condemned the murder of Sri Lankan journalist Sampath Lakmal de Silva and once again called for respect of freedom of expression.
“I condemn the murder of Sampath Lakmal de Silva,” Mr Matsuura said. “It seems to me crucial that the circumstances of this abduction and murder be elucidated without delay and the perpetrators of this crime against freedom of expression brought to justice. Democracy is truly in great danger when crimes against journalists go unpunished. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be protected.”
Sampath Lakmal de Silva was working as a freelancer after covering the conflict between the government and the Tamil separatists for the weekly Sathdina. Reports indicate that he was abducted during the night of 1 to 2 July in Borallasgamuwa, a suburb of Colombo; his body was found the next morning.
According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), six people working for the media, including four journalists, have been killed in Sri Lanka in the last 16 months, while not a single crime against a journalist has been solved in the country for the last 20 years.
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…”