Response to the misplaced grievences of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence

20th May 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence in response to our Press Release of 17th May 2008 on the alleged hacking of the Lanka Dissent website in Sri Lanka “categorically states that it does not have any unit engaged in the work of experimenting with or carrying out any studies on how to disrupt websites, or engaged in any form of disrupting websites, whether staffed by electronic and IT experts or not, and that it is not doing so in the said location or any other location in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.”

The FMM unreservedly welcomes this categorical denial.

Curiously though, the MoD’s response also takes issue with our statement for publishing an excerpt from the open letter Lanka Dissent sent us alleging the existence of an electronic media observation unit under the MoD. The MoD states that “it is regretted that [the FMM] has thought fit to publicize this totally false allegation through its own statement to the media, without verification of this matter from this Ministry.” Calling for us to withdraw our statement the MoD finally notes, “In the absence of such a remedial measure for the harm caused to the image and reputation of this Ministry, it will be necessary to seek legal recourse in this regard.”

The FMM finds no reason to withdraw its statement because we explicitly asked the MoD to clarify the allegations made by Lanka Dissent against it. We pointed that in a context where there is an indubitable block against tamilnet.com met with vehement denial from the regime and where independent media personnel face unprecedented physical and verbal violence, allegations such as those made by Lanka Dissent needed to be taken seriously. We noted quite clearly in our statement that,

“The FMM urges the authorities to immediately clarify the existence and nature of the electronic media-monitoring unit by the Ministry of Defence as noted by Lanka Dissent.”

The MoD’s deliberately partial reading of our statement and its expression of spurious grievances is indicative of a regime does not even tolerate attempts to clarify allegations made against it.

Our larger concerns about media freedom in Sri Lanka stand, as well as significant disquiet on the well documented hate speech repeatedly and blatantly promoted by the MoD against independent investigative reporting in Sri Lanka.

Advertisements

Statement from the Defence Ministry

(published under right to reply policy of FMM. FMM response will be posted later)

The attention of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, has been drawn to a statement issued by the Free Media Movement (FMM) dated 17 May 2008, and published in the media on May 19, 2008, which makes a serious allegation against this Ministry.

 Quoting a news item posted on the web site – www.lankadisent/allnews/2008 – and referring to a letter that the FMM had received from the Editor of “Lanka Dissent,  the FMM repeats a totally false allegation made by “Lanka Dissent” to the effect that this Ministry has recently set up a unit to monitor web sites and that this unit, staffed with electronic and IT experts, is experimenting on how to disrupt websites.

This is how the FMM has repeated the allegation initially made by Lanka Dissent:

“The Defence Ministry recently set up an electronic media observation unit at a building adjacent to Standard Chartered Bank in front of the President’s House in Colombo to monitor websites reporting on the situation in Sri Lanka. LD learns through reliable sources that this particular unit staffed with electronic and IT experts, is experimenting on how to disrupt websites.”

The Ministry of Defence categorically states that it does not have any unit engaged in the work of experimenting with or carrying out any studies on how to disrupt websites, or engaged in any form of disrupting websites, whether staffed by electronic and IT experts or not, and that it is not doing so in the said location or any other location in Sri Lanka or elsewhere.

Although the FMM states that “while the specific points in the Lanka Dissent letter are open to debate”, it is regretted that it has thought fit to publicize this totally false allegation through its own statement to the media, without verification  of this matter from this Ministry. It is equally regrettable that media institutions have also given wide publicity to this totally false allegation, without observing the journalistic duty of prior verification.

 

The initial false report by Lanka Dissent, and the added publicity to it, both locally and abroad, through the FMM statement, underlines the concerns of this Ministry that such reports are intended to discredit the Government of Sri Lanka and tarnish the image of this country abroad on a subject that is at present attracting considerable attention among activists for Human Rights and Media freedom.

 

In view of the above, we request that both the Free Media Movement and Lanka Dissent issue statements withdrawing the said allegation about this Ministry being in any manner engaged in work to disrupt websites through hacking or any other means, and also call on the media institutions that gave publicity to the statement of the FMM based on a false and unverified report, to also give similar publicity to this statement as the original offending reports.

 

In the absence of such a remedial measure for the harm caused to the image and reputation of this Ministry, it will be necessary to seek legal recourse in this regard.

 

Thank you.(Defence.lk)

 

Journalist beaten, editor assaulted and robbed

20th May 2008

 

It has been reported to the Free Media Movement that one journalist was beaten and an editor was assaulted and robbed of his valuables in eastern town of Kathankudi in seemingly election related incidents. Kathankidi has been a scene of number of election related violence as well as widespread election mal practices in recently held eastern provincial council election.

 

Free lance journalist J.L. Jawfarkhan was beaten by party supporters on 19th afternoon around 1.20 pm.  He had been asked to get an interview from Provincial councilor M. Hisbullah by one of the TV stations in Colombo. When he went to see Mr. M. Hisbullah, his supporters shouting that journalist Jawfarkhan did not support them in the election started to beat him although Mr. Hisbullah asked them not to beat him saying he is a journalist. 

 

Mr. Jawfarkhan has made a complaint to the Kathankudi Police, identifying the persons who beat him.

 

On 9th May, one day before the PC election editor of weekend news paper Vaara Ureikal, Mr. M.I. Rahmahetulla alias Poovi was assaulted by a gang of three and robbed his digital camera   and Rs. 16,000 cash. The incident happened around 10.00 pm while he was on his way home after days work at the news paper office.  .According to FMM sources   this assault too is election related, the editor being blamed for not supporting a powerful politician in the area.

 

Although Mr. M.I. Rahmahetulla made complaint at the Kathankudi police on the same day so far no action has been taken by the police.

 

Kathankudi police has been criticised by independent election observers for being partial and not taking meaningful steps to stop large scale election mal practices that took place in the area. FMM is afraid that regarding above mentioned political motivated assaults Kathankudi police may not be impartial in carrying out investigations. 

 

Condemning both incidents as attacks of media freedom, FMM demand that the district police HQ and SSP Batticloa  intervene to ensure that culprits are brought before the law without delay.

 

FMM urge all politicians to respect journalist’s right to report and treat them equally despite their political affiliations.   At the same time FMM would like to reiterate that as journalists’ responsibility to act independent of political believes and affiliations become all the more important in times of elections. We request all journalists and media to be independent in covering elections.

 

 

Journalist beaten, editor assaulted and robbed

 

It has been reported to the Free Media Movement that one journalist was beaten and an editor was assaulted and robbed of his valuables in eastern town of Kathankudi in seemingly election related incidents. Kathankidi has been a scene of number of election related violence as well as widespread election mal practices in recently held eastern provincial council election.

 

Free lance journalist J.L. Jawfarkhan was beaten by party supporters on 19th afternoon around 1.20 pm.  He had been asked to get an interview from Provincial councilor M. Hisbullah by one of the TV stations in Colombo. When he went to see Mr. M. Hisbullah, his supporters shouting that journalist Jawfarkhan did not support them in the election started to beat him although Mr. Hisbullah asked them not to beat him saying he is a journalist. 

 

Mr. Jawfarkhan has made a complaint to the Kathankudi Police, identifying the persons who beat him.

 

On 9th May, one day before the PC election editor of weekend news paper Vaara Ureikal, Mr. M.I. Rahmahetulla alias Poovi was assaulted by a gang of three and robbed his digital camera   and Rs. 16,000 cash. The incident happened around 10.00 pm while he was on his way home after days work at the news paper office.  .According to FMM sources   this assault too is election related, the editor being blamed for not supporting a powerful politician in the area.

 

Although Mr. M.I. Rahmahetulla made complaint at the Kathankudi police on the same day so far no action has been taken by the police.

 

Kathankudi police has been criticised by independent election observers for being partial and not taking meaningful steps to stop large scale election mal practices that took place in the area. FMM is afraid that regarding above mentioned political motivated assaults Kathankudi police may not be impartial in carrying out investigations. 

 

Condemning both incidents as attacks of media freedom, FMM demand that the district police HQ and SSP Batticloa  intervene to ensure that culprits are brought before the law without delay.

 

FMM urge all politicians to respect journalist’s right to report and treat them equally despite their political affiliations.   At the same time FMM would like to reiterate that as journalists’ responsibility to act independent of political believes and affiliations become all the more important in times of elections. We request all journalists and media to be independent in covering elections.