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State-run TV is targeting Sri Lanka NGOs, activists say

TV stations reacted sharply to complaint to UN Human Rights Council

ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

March 11, 2014

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Nongovernmental organizations in Sri Lanka say they are being unfairly targeted by state media for filing complaints in a memo to the UN Human Rights Council for what they say are ongoing human rights violations.

State-run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corp, in a March 6 broadcast, said that by complaining to the United Nations, the 24 NGOs that signed the complaint could “damage the peace and reconciliation” among Sri Lanka’s various ethnic groups and regions. The state TV station also accused the NGOs of exaggerating human rights abuses in Sri Lanka as a fund-raising tool.

Of particular concern to human rights leaders was that the broadcast specifically named several NGOs and displayed photographs of several officials.

“I think it would have been good if Rupavahini pointed out what has been said in the civil society memo, and pointed out what exactly was false, instead of making sweeping and vague allegations about false information,” said Ruki Fernando of the Inform Human Rights Documentation Center.

“Members of the UN Human Rights Council depend on alternative information and views to do their work, as they can’t depend only one narrative from the government,” he told ucanews.com.

In their complaint to the United Nations, the NGOs called for a war crimes investigation and said that religious extremism was increasing.

Father Reid Shelton Fernando, a human rights activist from Colombo said the state-owned station was being “very imprudent in their attack” on the NGOs.

"I do not see any falsity in their statement,” he said of the NGO complaint.

Sri Lanka was embroiled in a brutal civil war from 1983 to 2009. The military and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam both stand accused of a wide range of war crimes. According to the UN statistics, as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed during the final stages of the war.

Member countries of the UN Human Rights Council are scheduled to vote March 28 on a US-sponsored resolution that could call for an investigation into alleged war crimes that occurred during the final phases of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that Sri Lankan citizens should decide if the country needs an investigation into the war, not the UN Human Rights Council.

"People can decide if the war was right or wrong, not the UNHRC," he said addressing a meeting on Sunday.

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