Postal Address: IFJ Asia-Pacific Project Office, PO Box 723,Strawberry Hills, NSW, 2012, Australiaasiapacific.ifj.org
IFJ Asia-Pacific Director
Mohamed NasheedPresident of the MaldivesThe President's OfficeBoduthakurufaanu Magu,Male' 20113Republic of MaldivesOctober 5, 2011Dear President Nasheed,
Re: False allegations and attacks on Sri Lankan Journalist Sunanda Deshapriya
I am writing to you today on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), whichrepresents more than 600,000 journalists and media workers in 131 countries, to expressour concerns about comments attributed to you in a number of media reports in Sri Lanka’smedia.In these reports, you are quoted making negative comments about Sri Lankan human rightsdefenders participating in the ongoing sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council,and related side events held in Geneva in September. Of particular concern are thecomments that obliquely refer to Sunanda Deshapriya, a former leader of IFJ affiliate theFree Media Movement, for having acted “against his country” in his advocacy work at theUN.Mr. Deshapriya is a well known human rights defender, press freedom campaigner and journalist from Sri Lanka. He has been exiled in Switzerland since 2009 due to threatsrelating to a statement he made on human rights and press freedom in Sri Lanka during theSpecial Session of the UN Human Rights Council in May 2009.He has been attending sessions of the UN Human Rights Council since 2009 and hasworked closely with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) andseveral international press freedom organizations and human rights organizations, includingthe IFJ.Mr Deshapriya and several other witnesses have confirmed you did not make the commentsattributed to you in these media reports, and that he had engaged in a cordial conversationwith you and other Sri Lankan human rights defenders after the event. We have alsoconfirmed this with others present at the said event.I am concerned that if the reports misquoting you in the Sri Lankan media are not corrected,the damage to Mr Deshapriya’s reputation and the already considerable risks to his personalsafety will be exacerbated. I am informed he has already received several threatening callsas a result of these reports – a list of which are attached to this letter.I fear this misrepresentation of your interaction with Mr Deshapriya will set a precedent formisquoting senior figures in Sri Lanka’s media, which may be used to discredit andundermine those who voice their concerns about press freedom and human rights in thecountry.