War is peace

I was talking to Amnesty’s expert on Sri Lanka today and the situation she described to me was one of the most truly Orwellian I have ever heard about.

 

News reports tell us that the government is on the verge of possible conclusive military victory against the Tamil Tigers in the civil war that has raged for more than 20 years. In the midst of this is a human rights crisis as serious as that in Gaza (if comparisons need be made) with civilians being forced from their homes, and denied food, shelter and medical care. No less than a quarter of a million people are at risk. Both government forces and rebels are committing human rights abuses.

 

But why don’t we hear or see more of what is happening there?

 

Because the government is running a very successful policy of controlling (and preventing) all media access to the area. Journalists are harassed by the police if they are critical of the way the government is fighting the war against the Tamil Tigers. The rebels and their supporters are also not beyond threatening journalists who criticise them.

 

This situation makes Sri Lanka one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist - fourteen journalists have been killed since 2006 and many more have left the country after receiving death threats, including threats against their families. Foreign press have also been refused access to the conflict zone.

 

Meanwhile TV stations are forced to lead the news with government propaganda films showing military ‘victories’, and the government is apparently receiving specialist communications advice from international consultants (what a way to make a living).

 

My Amnesty colleague has not long returned from the country and described an atmosphere where people are frightened and are looking over their shoulders when they talk to you.

 

And the Orwellian part? A government organ called the Peace Secretariat sits comically atop all this churning out statements about how the International Red Cross don’t understand the laws of war, and those who continue to try and monitor human rights violations are simply in the thrall of terrorists.

 It would be funny – if there weren’t so many people dying.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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