Uvindu Kurukulasuriya, from http://www.fojo.se/international/freedom-of-expression-around-the-world/uvindu-from-sri-lanka where it carries the catchy title: I finally boarded the plane
When I landed in London, I heard that just after boarding the plane in my country, Sri Lanka, the government arrested a journalist friend who was trying to escape from the country. I was on my way to London again after exactly nine years. In January 2000 I was forced to leave the country after a friend of mine had been killed. We had been investigating a story together. I was granted indefinite permit to remain in UK. One and half years later the situation in Sri Lanka had changed and I went back and started to work. Now I was flying to London again.
Defiant journalists and friends express anger & anguish at Lasantha Wickramatunga’s funeral
I was thinking: what is happening to us, what’s wrong? In January last year, just 12 days before I left the country, my good friend Lasantha Wickramatunge was killed. I was there in the hospital when he died. I was completely numb, I couldn’t think. No feeling, no thought at all, I was like that for days, I had to be told when to eat and sleep. I wasn’t even sad, there was no emotion, just numbness. My mind was complete blank for at least 10 months.
Lasantha was the most courageous Sri Lankan Editor I’ve ever seen. I was the convener of the Free Media Movement at that time. We were fighting and advocating against the media suppression in Sri Lanka. There were 19 journalists and media workers killed and dozens of intimidations, harassments and death threats in the last four years.
It is a psychology of fear through abductions, killings and other form of pressure that is brought in. It’s not so much about what is written, but what you should not write. For instance, we are asked not to refer to this and that, or to the President, or to the Secretary of defense. Media in Sri Lanka certainly have a certain censorship, but this is beyond the norm.
While I am writing this, one more friend of mine has been abducted, one editor is being arrested and another editor is hiding. I spend sleepless nights again, and sometimes I think: what we are fighting for? Are we fighting for owners’ rights? Because when we read the newspapers what do we read? All partisan stories! And since the employers don’t pay good salaries, journalists say: “we earn money not by writing, but by not writing”. If they keep quiet, the authorities will pay them.
Corruption within journalism is very common in Sri Lanka and also journalists unions are corrupt. There is no editorial independence, no newsroom democracy. So, the struggle for media freedom has to go with values of social responsibility. Otherwise how can we achieve professional quality in journalism? We need to have a holistic approach and there are so many more things we need to change. But first of all, we have to adopt a simple principle: Change begins with us. We need to change ourselves!