23September2017

Sri Lanka: Two UN visits and three incidents of Tamil media harassment


Two Tamil journalists and a media outlet in Sri Lanka came under military and police harassment during two visits by UN officials.

A Tamil journalist in the north was summoned by the police to be questioned on covering a media briefing and police twice visited a Tamil media institution in Colombo when UN special rapporteur for counter terrorism and human rights was in the country.

Pratheepan

The journalist, Thambithurai Pratheepan was given notice in Sinhala (a language he doesn't understand) on the the 12th of July requesting him to be in Colombo over 200 kilometers from his residence.

However, he managed to persuade police to meet him in Jaffna as he was under medical treatment following a traffic accident.

He was grilled on 17 July  at the Achchuveli police station by officers of the organised crime prevention unit for over three hours on reporting a media briefing held by a northern provincial councillor.

Councillor MK Shivajiligam had invited journalists to the Jaffna Press Club (JPC) in May to brief them on a memorial event to commemorate the war dead.

Sinhala only

Police had forced the journalist  to sign a statement written in Sinhala despite repeated requests by him to provide it in Tamil.

"In the end, I was forced to sign it due to fear," said Pratheepan who was clueless of the contents of the statement 

Special rapporteur Ben Emmerson who was in Sri Lanka from July 10-14 to investigate and report on the use of anti-terror laws has found that mostly Tamils in Sri Lanka are arrested under terror laws and tortured in order to obtain confessions.

The Jaffna Press Club condemned the police refusal to provide a statement in the journalist's mother tongue, adding that it demonstrates the government totally  disregarding Tamils even though the constitution guarantees equal status to both Sinhala and Tamil languages.

Shalin

The day after Pratheepan was interrogated by police, the military obstructed Uthayarasa Shalin from covering an ongoing protest by relatives of disappeared in Nedunkerny.

Army insisted the protest was over despite its continuation for over 125 days.

"So you are Shalin, the one who writes lies about us," said the military after Shalin produced his government press identification.

"The intimidating mannar they told it," made me turn back," he later said.

IBC TAMIL

Earlier in the week police twice made un-anounced visits to the Colombo bureau of the London based IBC TAMIL TV.

"We haven't heard anything from authorities yet, although we have made written complaints to the police chief and media minister," Head of News MS Rajkumar told JDS when contacted on Thursday (20).

The UN top political official Jeffrey D Feltman arrived in Sri Lanka  on a three-day visit on 19 July to hold talks with Sri Lankan leaders and other stakeholders on the peace building process, said the UN office in Colombo.

© JDS

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