The Jaffna Press Club strongly condemns attempts by the State to prevent the knowledge -based development workshops for Tamil speaking journalists tarnishing them with a racist brush in circumstances where the threats against journalists and media organisations from the North of Sri Lanka are already at a very high level.
An investigative journalism training workshop organised by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) for journalists from the North-East was once again disrupted by state assisted goons. The workshop was disrupted by a group of more than hundred persons who carried out a protest against it. On the 22nd of May, 2014, the same workshop organised by TISL at Girithale, in Polonnaruwa, for journalists of the North-East was suspended after the direct intervention of the security forces. That workshop had been organised with the title of ‘Investigative reporting on the enforcement of the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)’.
After receiving instructions from the Defence Ministry, military personnel from the Minneriya Army Base visited the site and issued a warning that led to the workshop being suspended. The journalists who had come for the workshop were sent back. The workshop was rescheduled for the 6th of June, 2014 and began at a hotel in Negombo. It is in this situation that a group of persons held a protest outside the hotel demanding that the workshop be cancelled.
The chief demand of the protestors was to cancel the workshop and turn out the journalists. It is pertinent to note that there was no protest or objection when the same workshop was held for journalists of our fellow race. Therefore we cannot but conclude that this protest was held with a sinister objective. It has also become public that these persons came well prepared for the protest.
The Sri Lankan State has been campaigning amongst the international community stating that it has been enforcing the recommendations made by the LLRC. It has also been continuously releasing data and statistics relating to those who surrendered and the number of persons who had disappeared. But in the domestic sphere we see that Tamil journalists are denied the opportunity to even speak about the LLRC recommendations and their enforcement.
Many journalists in the North-East have been murdered with impunity in recent critical times. Some have been abducted or been disappeared. A number of journalists have escaped murder attempts with serious injuries. Such a critical situation has led to many journalists fleeing the profession and even the country. In recent times the risky situation for journalists of the North-East has re-escalated. In the last two months alone at least three journalists who worked in Jaffna have fled the country due to threats to their lives.
While the threats against the workshop were being made in Negombo, Sivagnanam Selvatheepan, a journalist from Jaffna who escaped an attempt on his life has fled Sri Lanka and sought refuge in a western country. We would like to therefore bring to the understanding of the international community that such continuous harassment of the media makes Sri Lanka an unfit place for journalists to live in safety and security.
* Press Release issued by the Jaffna Press Club