Media delegation briefed on the woes of Tamil journalists

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 11:25 GMT]
The delegates of International media, who arrived in Colombo on Monday on a fact finding mission, to assess the climate of press freedom in Sri Lanka, held a meeting with the representatives from Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) and Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU ) in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI), sources in Colombo said.

The meeting was held at the Galle Face Hotel between the delegation from International Media Support (IMS), International Press Institute (IPI), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and Sri Lankan Tamil media.

R. Bharathy, the secretary of the Federation of Tamil media associations and joint secretary Mr.Nixon explained the difficulties faced by the Tamil media in Sri Lanka. Sunantha Deshapriya, a spokesman from free media Movement, Ami, the President of Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Bothala Jayantha, the Secretary of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association also explained the climate for free reporting and the dangers faced by journalists in detail to the foreign delegation

It was pointed out that four journalists have been gunned down within the past six years by SLA Troops and the paramilitary groups.

Citing the case of BBC reporter Nirmalarajan killed in Jaffna on Oct 25, 2000 the delegation was told that though clues for the killing were discovered the government not only failed to conduct proper inquiries but helped the assassins flee Sri Lanka.

They journalists also brought to the attention of the foreign delegates that the internationally acclaimed investigative journalist Sivaram (Taraki) was assassinated in 2005 on Apr 28, near the parliament in the country’s capital, in a High Security Zone, and though the culprits were arrested no enquiries have yet been held.

Journalist Sugirtharajan was shot dead in June in Trincomalee in the East by Intelligence personnel, the speakers said.

The speakers also mentioned about the recent attack on Uthayan newspaper office in Jaffna, where unknown gun men burst in and killed two employees and sprayed the editorial office with gunfire.

They pointed out that Uthayan attack happened on the day the International Media Day was being celebrated in Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall ( BMICH ) in Colombo. On the same day Sivaramyah Sivanathan from the Tamil Service of Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) was detained accused of being a supporter of LTTE.

The delegation was also told of the several incidents in Colombo in the recent past where Tamil media personnel have been selectively targeted.

They mentioned the grenade attack on the Colombo office of Uthayan Newspaper, which was followed by a bomb attack on Sudaroli office during which a security guard guarding the office lost his life, while the editorial office was seriously damaged.

Highlighting the continued difficulties faced by the Tamil media personnel, the speakers referred to the recent assassination of Sivamaharaja, the managing director of Jaffna based Eelanadu newspaper resulting in the cessation of its publication due to threats by SLA personnel in the north.

They also mentioned about the recent of attack on Thinakkural, another Jaffna based newspaper one of whose sales manager was gunned down by unidentified persons.

Detailing the state of affairs in Colombo, the speakers said that paramilitaries collaborating with SLA personnel have effectively prevented the sale of the two newspapers in the East for the past three months.

Referring to the state of affairs in East the delegation learnt that consequent to the killing of Nadesan, the reporters are afraid to work in those areas and all six senior reporters have sought refuge in foreign countries.

The speakers also pointed out the case of Nadarajah Kurupran, a reporter released within twelve hours due to quick action and joint effort of media personnel of all the communities in the country.

Sunantha Deshapiriya, summing up the situation stated that paramilitary groups with assistance of the government have registered themselves as political parties and are indulging in indiscriminate killings in North and East with the help of SLA personnel and reporters are fearful of working in these areas.

Mr . Deshapiriya also mentioned the case of a Sinhala media personnel Lakmal Sampath who was killed by a Lieutenant in the Sri Lankan Army on whom no action was taken.

The international delegation will conduct a press conference to reveal their findings at the end of the Mission, sources in Colombo said.


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