Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at Uthayan Newspaper Headquarters in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

November 22, 2015

Hello, everybody. I’m also a former journalist. I represent a president in President Obama who believes in every fiber of his being of the importance of the press holding government accountable. And every one of you who has any role in putting this paper out day, after day, after day is playing a critically important role as a check and balance on state power. I know that things in this area have been incredibly difficult for a very long time, but imagine how much worse they would have been were it not for this paper and the fact that soldiers and government officials have to think to themselves, “maybe they’ll report on it?”

We’ll never know what this area would have looked like without you all having the courage to come to work every day. And if there is to be change – more change – in this country, it will be because you keep holding government accountable. And I can tell you as one who used to be in your job – criticizing government and describing things I didn’t like – now that I’m on the other side getting criticized, it’s so important. You learn so much from people outside who are connected with their communities. You all know things that government officials who work in offices that are removed from the people can’t know sometimes. You puncture the bubble. And you stand up for the rights of your people. And unlike journalism in my country – which is hard but not dangerous – you risk your lives to do so. As this man’s body attests*, he bears the evidence of the sacrifices you all make for the good of your people.

I have nothing but the greatest admiration, and I extend that admiration on behalf of President Obama. Thank you for doing what you’re doing.

*Ambassador Power gestures toward Uthayan Chief Editor M. V. Kanamaylnathan, who was injured in an attack on the paper’s headquarters.