Free Media Movement E-Bulletin: November 2007

1. Journalist accused by Minster of Parliament
2. A broad coalition to defend Freedom of Expression created
3. Two journalists detained over night
4. News paper distributor abducted in Jaffna
5. Two journalist students detained briefly
6. Journalists and other organizations joined a media protest
7. Two TV journalists assaulted
8. UNP leader pulls up Daily Mirror lobby correspondent
9. Deputy Editor followed by unidentified person
10. Minister asks BBC to not quote the LTTE
11. Journalists leave the country for safety
12. FMM joins IFJ in solidarity with Pakistani journalists
13. Journalists awards ceremony held
14. Proof reader abducted in Jaffna
15. Leader publications printing house attacked by arsonists
16. Second protest by journalist in a month
17. Provincial journalist threatened
18. BBC Sinhala programme censored by SLRC
19. Voice of Tigers radio station bomber, 3 media workers killed
20. SC grants leave to proceed in a case filed by a journalist

1st November – Journalist accused by Minster of Parliament
Member of Parliament and Minister Dr. Rajitha Senarathna accused Mrs. Sunetra Atugalpura, Deputy News Editor of Sinhala Language daily Lakbima of political bias speaking at a party press conference. The reason for the accusation was a new story published under her byline related to their political group. Five media organisations issuing a release deplored the Minister’s attitude of naming and shaming journalists instead of sending a correction to the newspaper. The journalist accused by the Minister, in a letter to FMM, stood by her story as accurate and impartial.

2nd November – A broad coalition to defend Freedom of Expression rights created
A broad coalition called Movement Against Media Suppression (MAMS) was created with the participation of leading Trade Unions, Human Rights organisations and women’s organisations in the country. MAMS was initiated by the Media Centre which consists of five leading journalist oroganisations in the country. Poddala Jayantha, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) was appointed as the Convener. Its address is 1C, 1/1, 28th Lane , Flower Road , Colombo 07.

4th November – Two journalists detained over night
Two journalists of Tamil daily Veerakesari was detained over night by Slave Island police (a Police division in Colombo ) without any valid reason merely because there were from a Tamil language newspaper. Journalists Meera Sakib Ahamad Fahim and photojournalist M.S .Salim along with their driver Karupaiya Rajendaran was arrested by the military and handed over to the police when they were in assignment on ”city visit” for the newspaper. They were released without any charge the next morning after media organizations made representations to the Police.

5th November – News paper distributor abducted in Jaffna
A newspaper delivery person of Jaffna based Tamil daily Yal Thinakkural, Mr. Anthonypillai Sherin Sithranjan was reported missing since 5th November 2007. Mr. Anthonypillai is 36 years old, married and father of one child. He lived at Uyarappulm, Annaikkottai, Jaffna . He went missing after taking papers for distribution from Yarl Thinakkural office in K.K.S Road at 6:00 a.m. on 5th November.

6th November -Two journalist students detained briefly
Two journalism students of Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) were arrested by the Pettah Police station and detained briefly. Both students belonged to minority communities.

6th November -Journalists and other organizations joined a media protest
Media organizations, Trade Unions and Human Rights organizations held a one thousand strong protest in defense of FOE rights in Colombo on 10th November under the slogan Freedom of Expression – Foundation of all Freedoms. The protest was the first campaign by newly formed Movement Against Media Suppression (MAMS).

8th November – Two TV journalists assaulted
Two TV journalists of Sirasa were assaulted by a mob in Ranminithanna, Tissamaharamaya in the deep South of Sri Lanka whilst on an assignment to cover the killing of two villages by unidentified persons. The two journalists were Wasantha Pradeep Manasingha and I.K.A. Waruna Sampath. The assault took place after and as a direct consequence of police officers ordering the journalists to leave the scene in an uncivilized manner.

8th November 29 – UNP leader pulls up Daily Mirror lobby correspondent
The main opposition party UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe pulled-up Daily Mirror Lobby Correspondent Kelum Bandara for not publishing the UNP’s statement on budget. The UNP Leader had reportedly said that “Daily Mirror is worse than Daily News” indicating that the paper is being partial to government and had added that he would issue a letter to mark his protest over the matter.

9th November – Deputy editor followed by unidentified person
On the night of 9th November Deputy Editor of the daily Sinhala newspaper Lakbima, Sampath Deshapriya reported to FMM that he was followed to his residence by an unidentified man and refused to leave when he was asked to. In the end he had to seek police protection.

10th November – Minister asks BBC to not quote LTTE rebels
According to an un – contradicted report in Sunday Lankadeepa newspaper on 10th November, Media Minister Laxman Yapa Abewardana has asked BBC world service not to get direct quotations from the LTTE on Sri Lanka situation as the LTTE had been banned in many countries. According to the Minister direct quotations from LTTE may give a distorted picture of the country. The Minister made this request when he met head BBC Jonathan Falwam and News Editor Richard Porter in London .

10th November – Journalists leave the country for safety
Journalist K.P. Mohan of Tamil daily Thinakural who had been assaulted twice by Air Force personnel in June and attacked with acid by unidentified persons in August fled the country to Switzerland in fear of his life and for his safety. Police inquires in to all three incidents has drawn a blank and have been unable to produce any suspects in a Court of Law. Mohan was the Defense Correspondent of daily Thinakkural.

15th November – FMM joins IFJ in solidarity with Pakistani journalists
In a letter to the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo the FMM said “We share the opinion of the IFJ and our colleagues in Pakistan that the challenges facing Pakistan cannot be solved by actions which prevent journalists from doing their work, that put our colleagues at risk of their personal safety and which will only encourage fear, ignorance and rumour within the population at large.We urge your government to take all immediate steps to lift the imposition of censorship and controls on media and on journalists and we call on you to take whatever steps are necessary to protect journalists in their work.”

16th November – Journalists awards ceremony held
Organised by five media organizations (SLWJA, FMETU , FMM, SLTMA, SLMMF) with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) for the second consecutive year, the Public Services Journalism Awards ceremony was held at the Galle Face Hotel, Colombo on 16th November. Centre for Policy Alternatives facilitated and administered the awards ceremony while USAID provided financial support. More than 300 journalists sent over 750 entries from all over Sri Lanka .

17th November – Proof reader abducted in Jaffna
Mr. Vadivel Nimalarajah, proof reader of Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper reported missing since 17th November 2007. He has been with Uthayan newspaper for last three years as night proof reader. Mr. V. Nimalarajah was cycling on his way home when he was abducted by unidentified group near the Navalar Road railway crossing around 7.30 am. He is 31 years old, unmarried and lived at Nicholas Lane , Kachcheri Nallur Road , Jaffna .

21st November – Leader Publications printing house attacked by arsonists
The printing press of Leader Publications, which publish the weekly The Sunday Leader, mid weekly Morning Leader and Sinhala Weekly Irudina was destroyed arsonists early morning on 21st November. The printing house was situated at 24, Katukurunduwatta Road , Ratmalana and in very close proximity to a High Security Zone (HSZ). The damage estimated at millions of rupees. The Morning Leader print run was on when the armed gang of 15 forced themselves into the printing house and set it on fire.

23rd November – Second protest by journalists in a month
On 23rd November journalists with likeminded pro-democracy groups took to the street for the second time in a month. The protest was organized against the arson attack on Leader publications printing press on 21st November. Nearly 500 people including Trade Union and civil society leaders took part in the protest which was held in the centre of Colombo city.

27th November – Provincial journalist threatened
Journalist Karunarathna Gamge of the Divaina newspaper was verbally assaulted by the President of Tamankaduwa local government authority in Polonnaruwa on 27th November. Mr. Gamage, who is the President of the Polonnaruwa District Journalist’s Association was covering a story related to garbage whilst taking some photographs. Mr. Gamage has lodged a complaint with the police regarding the incident.

28th November – BBC Sinhala programme censored by SLRC
State owned and controlled radio station (SLRC) by manipulated the time of broadcast, effectively put off the air the Sinhala language programme of the BBC, Sanadeshaya on 28th November. . According to FMM sources the sections related to LTTE leader’s hero’s day speech were completely censored by the SLRC in a clear case of media censorship barely 24 hours after the Media Minster’s spurious claim during the parliamentary budget debate that there is no media censorship in Sri Lanka.

27th November – Voice of Tigers radio station bombed, 3 media workers killed

On the evening of 27th November, Sri Lankan Air Force jets bombed the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Ealam (LTTE) radio station Voice of Tigers (VOT), killing three of its media workers. The station location was well known for years. No government in the past has attacked the station as it was a civilian office, not a military installation. According to Tamilnet, the three editorial staff killed in the attack were identified as Isaivizhi Chempiyan (also known as Subajini, a former Ozhiveechchu news presenter), Suresh Linbiyo, a technical desk worker and T. Tharmalingam. Radio presenters K. Jenanai, 34, and Anparasi Rajkumar were wounded in the attack. Two other staff workers sustained minor injuries, according to the same source.

29th November – Supreme Court (SC) grants leave to proceed in a case filed by a journalist
The Supreme Court on 29th November granted leave to proceed with a fundamental rights petition filed by The Sunday Leader journalist Arthur Wamanan against his arbitrary arrest and detention. Wamanan filed the petition on November 22nd, claiming that his arrest and detention without a valid reason had violated of his fundamental rights and breached the constitutional right to engage in a profession freely and independently. The journalist is also seeking Rs. 10 million in compensation.

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