Journalists protest against media repression in North

Journalists protested today in Jaffna, against the ongoing media repression of press in the island’s North. 

Carrying placards calling for an end on the war against the media, Tamil journalists together with locals and Tamil politicians, staged a protest by the main bus stand in Jaffna at 12pm local time.

Photograph Tamil Guardian

The protest was organised by the Jaffna Press Club (JPC), and endorsed by journalists from the South.

“Even after the armed conflict in the North has ceased, as the intimidation of journalists has increased, many journalists are fleeing the country having received death threats. Meanwhile, those journalists who continue to work on the ground, continue to have death threats sent to them. In these circumstances, the media community is gripped with fear over the dangers that journalism is going to face in coming days,” said the JPC said in a statement published shortly after the protest.

 

Photograph Tamil Guardian

Condemning the military’s continued targetting of journalists specifically in the North, the JPC highlighted the increasing number of Tamil journalists who were forced to flee the island following death threats and attempts made against the life.

Photograph Tamil Guardian

Statement reproduced in full below:

Even after the armed conflict in the North has ceased, as the intimidation of journalists has increased, many journalists are fleeing the country having received death threats. Meanwhile, those journalists who continue to work on the ground, continue to have death threats sent to them. In these circumstances, the media community is gripped with fear over the dangers that journalism is going to face in coming days

The trend of murdering journalists, that started at the end of the year 2000, with the murder of one of our fellow journalist, Mayalvahanam Nimalarajan, continues to till now. Before our very eyes, many of our fellow colleagues have been shot dead. Many have been abducted, many have disappeared. Till now, the Sri Lankan government has responded to these incidents with a long silence.

Whilst the government of Sri Lanka states it has brought a three decade long war to an end, violence against the media has increased in recent times. It raises the questions – has the Sri Lankan government’s war turned against the media? Many journalists, such as Uthayarasa Shalin from Valampuri newspaper, Thileep Amuthan from Uthayan newspaper and Selvatheepan from Thinakkural, have escaped from attempts made against their lives by unidentified persons.

Two Thinakkural journalists, T. Vinojith and P Winslow, were searched for by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) who disseminating false propaganda against them stating that they received training by the LTTE. Under these circumstances P Winslow escaped, fleeing the country. Similarly the journalists, S. Nitharshan, V. Kajeepan, S.K. Prasath, S. Karan and S. Tharshan, who went to report from the High Security Zone in Jaffna, had direct death threats made against them by the military. Amidst such threats S.K. Prasath has also fled the country.

In line with this, the military at Omanthai check point tried falsely accuse the journalists, K Hamsanan, V Kajeepan, S. Nitharshan, S. Mayuran, P. Paskaran, S. Soruban, who were travelling to take part in a media training workshop in Colombo on the 25th.

In this way, journalists in the Northern Province are conducting their work everyday amidst severe intimidation, putting their lives at risk. Meanwhile, filing cases seeking compensation in order to cripple media organisations, and summoning editorial board representatives to Palali Army Camp and the 4th floor has become routine. The journalist, Lempard, from Mannar district, is currently facing such investigations. Northern journalists are working with fear, at gunpoint, 24 hours a day. Being threatened and being followed has become normal.

In this environment, the Sri Lankan government is preventing the journalists from even gaining skills related to their careers. A perfect example of this, is the incident at the Omanthai checkpoint on the 25th, as well as two previous incidents when journalists from the Jaffna peninsula travelling to Colombo, were stopped and turned back after Sinhala chauvinist organisations, supported by the state, opposed.

Seven journalists, travelling to such a training workshop, escaped from an attempt to arrest and imprison them, accusing them falsely of possession of marijuana. We note with concern the attempt made to frame at the Omanthai checkpoint, which is clearly under Sri Lankan military control.

This incident illustrates what is to take place in the future. That journalists are being followed and being intimidated reveals the lack of security. As the Sri Lankan government has not created the environment needed for press freedom, we, journalists from the North, have launched a demonstration calling for press freedom, and strongly condemning the plots and ongoing murder attempts and attacks being made against journalists. We thank all parties who supported this protest.