Sri Lanka military compelled to acknowledge harassing Tamil journalist

The Sri Lankan military was made to admit that a senior officer harassed a Tamil journalist while covering a news story in the country’s militarised northeast.

Commanding officer the Alampil camp in Mulaitivu district promised the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRSCL) that journalist Shanmugam Thavaseelan will not be harassed in future when carrying out his work.


The HRSCL regional office in Vavunia was investigating Captain Lahiru Priyadarshana threatening the Asia Broadcasting Corporation reporter covering the military occupation of public cemetery.

HRSCL investigating officer Linus Wasantharaj heard how Journalist Thavaseelan was threatened by the senior officer who accused him of filming the military camp across the road.

Responding at the inquiry, Commanding officer of the 24th battalion of the Sinha Regiment (24SLSR) Champika Kathriarachchi had tried to play down the threat against the Tamil journalist as a ‘misunderstanding’.

No further charges

However, Journalist Thavaseelan brought to the notice of the HRCSL that the journalist's right to information is violated when it comes to covering conflicts between residents and the occupying military.

“We don’t have issues in covering military functions,” Shanmugaratnam Thavaseelan told inquiring officers at the HRCSL Vavunia regional office.

“We face problems only when we go to cover stories of people affected by the militarisation."

A study conducted last year found out that the Mulaitivu district is one of the most militarised regions in the island with a soldier for every two civilians.

“We work in Mulaitivu with the military presence putting a heavy burden on civilian life,” Thavaseelan told the HRCSL.  “The area is full of the type of officers who threatened me. If something nasty happens to me, these officers should be held responsible.”

Commanding officer Kathriarachchi had promised to not hinder journalists carrying out their duty in future.

Shanmugaratnam Thavaseelan did not press further charges against the officer who threatened him, following the assurance of the 24SLSR commanding officer that the commitment will be given in writing.



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.