challenges RSF at Unesco symposium
newly-appointed Permanent Delegate of Sri Lanka to
Unesco, Ambassador Dr Dayan Jayatilleka,
participating in the International Symposium on the
Freedom of Expression at Unesco in Paris questioned
the right of Reporters without Borders (RSF) to
stand in judgment of legitimate member states.
The secretary-general of Reporters without
Borders, Jean-Francois Julliard, a panelist at the
symposium, in his remarks earlier noted several
countries and their leaders, as being infringers of
the freedom of expression, which has also been
highlighted in the material displayed and referred
to by the organisation.
Ambassador Jayatilleka cautioned against a
discourse in which there was an implicit ‘moral food
chain’ where the states of the Global South were at
the bottom, with those of the Global North above and
non-governmental organisations of the North super
imposed on top of the chain.
He said he did not advocate a reversal of the
order either but stressed that bodies like Unesco
must not be misled by groups such as RSF with
defamatory material projected as being accurate.
Ambassador Jayatilleka questioned as to how such
groups, like RSF in particular, could sit as ‘judge,
jury and executioner’ and claim a moral high ground.
Sri Lanka’s permanent delegate criticised the Unesco
website for featuring the bio data of the
secretary-general of RSF, which boasted of him
having campaigned for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing
Olympic Games and having demonstrated at the
ceremony in Olympia.
Ambassador Jayatilleka pointed out that although
the RSF put up on a screen a ‘rogues gallery’ as it
were of leaders such as Fidel Castro as ‘enemies of
the freedom of expression’, it was indeed courageous
individuals like Fidel who gave shelter and voice to
the voiceless during the long dark night of
dictatorships in Latin America, thereby contributing
to the freedom that the entire region enjoys today.
Recently RSF called for a boycott of the Galle
Literary Festival which opened today (January 26,
2011) in Sri Lanka, citing several factors as being
against the freedom of expression, but were thwarted
in their attempt by social media and human rights
activists within the country who contradicted the
basis for the boycott call.
Speakers from China, Cuba, Venezuela, Mauritania,
Ethiopia, Cameroon and several other States also
raised queries on the moralising postures being
adopted by NGOs and especially questioned the right
for such stances to be adopted at intergovernmental
organisations like Unesco.