Sri Lanka's ‘Reconciliation Army’ slams journalists for exposing brutal attack

A simple photo for a suggestive shot by a journalist has become a serious eyesore for the Sri Lankan Military.

The Sri Lanka Army has now issued a veiled threat to journalists accusing them of attempting to 'tarnish their image', which is contrary to what happened in front of the public.

Vishwalingam Vishwachandran, a freelance journalist for Tamill media was allegedly beaten up by soldiers on 27 November.

He told colleagues who rushed to the scene that he was punished for filming the name post “Mullivaikkal”. He pointed out the assailants who were caught on camera hurriedly walking away. (see video below)

As the video of the brutally beaten and bleeding journalist went into circulation, international condemnation started to pour in, the strongly worded denial has come from the army, three days after the incident.

Media watchdog Reporters sans frontières (RSF) tweeted condemning the attack.

“V. Viswachandran, a journalist of Tamil origin, was simply taking a photo of billboard in the locality of Mullivaikkal when he was attacked and beaten by four soldiers with a club covered in barbed wire”

"Vested interests"

In an apparent bid to cover up the attack the military statement slams whom they identify as ‘so-called journalists’ intended on tarnishing the image of the security forces in the North and East.

“Various social media platforms, largely with vested interests, along with some print media in the country published unverified, exaggerated and factually incorrect accounts of the said incident, in which the soldier in question had queried from the ‘aggrieved’ journalist as to why he was filming the location with troops on duty including the Mullivaikkal name board on the roadside”

And, the army has not given any explanation as to what’s wrong in just filming a name board describing a place name.

Describing reports of the incident as a "carefully-orchestrated and maliciously planned plot", the army script blames the victim for the injuries.

"As the soldier began reaching the said journalist, he had begun withdrawing backwards while filming, but suddenly struck against his own motorbike that had remained parked a few meters away from the name board and fell over the same place where a barbed wire fence of a land also stood by the side of a muddy spot and found his hands ‘bruised’."

The army says its findings comes after what it calls a comprehensive investigation by Sri Lanka Army and its Military Police.

'Healthy reconciliation'

Strangely enough, it cites a Medico-Legal Examination Report, which is apparently confidential.

"On prima facie evidence, the Police took the three soldiers on duty at the location into custody and bailed them afterwards pending further investigations. In the meantime, the Medico-Legal Examination Report of the Mullaittivu District Hospital, issued on Sunday (28), hours before the hospital discharge of the said journalist, confirmed that he had been treated only for ‘abrasion’ and ‘contusion’ during his hospital stay, quite contrary to the alleged “barbaric attack with a palm stick wrapped in barbed wire” as concocted stories that went on viral alleged and called for international investigations."

The Sri Lankan Military denying credible evidence of atrocities committed is not new. When the first-ever war crimes video discovered by JDS showing uniform clad armed men shooting down a naked group of men it was denied as fake, despite a presidential commission recommending a probe, which ultimately never happened. The UN has confirmed the authenticity of the footage broadcast by UK based Channel 4.

The army claims that the incident was “poised to tarnish the image of the Security Forces in the North and East since gestures of healthy reconciliation and sound goodwill spirits between the people and the security forces in the past have impressively grown".

While the army speaks of sound goodwill spirits and healthy reconciliation the ground situation in the most war-affected district of Mullaitivu is that it has the largest concentration of army camps and check posts in the country.

The Sri Lanka army along with the other security forces has continued to attack journalists and activists-in particular the North and East as they continue to speak about reconciliation.



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.