Journalist hacked to death in Jaffna

 

28th May 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) reports with deep sadness that yet another journalist was murdered today in Jaffna, in the embattled Northern Province of Sri Lanka. The FMM vehemently condemns this dastardly act and extend our condolences to his wife and family.

Sirasa, Shakthi and MTV Television Network Jaffna district correspondent P. Devakumar was hacked to death this evening in Navanthurei on his way home from Jaffna town. A friend of Devakumar was also killed by in the attack.  Devakumar, a resident of Vaddukoddai, Jaffna, was 36 years old and married for one year. He had worked for MTV for nearly three years. 

We note that Devakumar is the 9th journalist/media worker killed in Jaffna since 2006 and that three more journalists/media workers have been abducted in Jaffna since the same year.

Jaffna, the main city in the embattled Northern Peninsula of Sri Lanka, has been under government military control for over a decade and is heavily policed and fortified. However, not a single disappearance, abduction or murder of a journalist / media worker has been investigated that has brought those responsible to book. We are fearful that investigations into Devakumar’s murder will also suffer a similar fate.

It is with sickeningly increasing frequency that we are compelled to ask the government to take concrete measures to halt the killing, assault and intimidation of journalists in Sri Lanka. Vociferous condemnations and promises of inquiries are meaningless without the political will to push forward investigations.

 Devakumar’s death must be investigated urgently, meaningfully and impartially. The repugnant impunity that aids and abets violence against journalists and media personnel must come to an end. 

 

 

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Unauthorized visit to Sri Lanka Press Institute by military personal

 

 

Free Media Movement express its grave concern that military personal has made a  “unofficial” visit to Sri Lanka Press Institute,  in which FMM is a constituent partner.  Below is the full statement:

The Sri Lanka Press Institute expresses its concern and serious reservation that armed persons dressed in uniform of the Sri Lanka Army arrived at the headquarters of the Institute last Tuesday (27), and subsequently made inquiries pertaining to the individuals working for the Institute, including its directorate.

The armed men were not permitted to enter the premises by the Institute’s security guards. Thereupon, a lone Corporal, unarmed, proceeded to the Administration section of the office and began asking for the names of the individuals working for the Institute, including those in its directorate.

When asked to show his identification, he stated that he was from the Army’s Intelligence unit, and refused to produce any ID. The Corporal was informed by members of the staff present to make a formal request for any such information from an official authorised to make such a request from the Sri Lanka Army. The person concerned withdrew thereafter.

The matter was promptly brought to the notice of the Military Spokesman of the Ministry of Defence Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, and the issue gained serious proportion when the Institute was informed that the Sri Lanka Army had not authorised any member of its Force to make any such inquiries, and

that, in any event, the Intelligence unit will not seek information in such a manner. We were advised to make an entry at the nearest Police Station, which was done.

If this was an un-authorised visit by members of the Sri Lanka Army, or any persons not authorised to wear the uniform of the Sri Lanka Army, we would have expected the Military Police to initiate an immediate inquiry into this matter.

 That, however, is a matter for the Sri Lanka Army. The Institute is concerned that the timing of this ‘visit’ comes in the immediate aftermath of the abduction, assault and consequent hospitalisation of the Associate Editor of The Nation, Keith Noyarh last week.

The Institute has reason to believe that there is a nexus in the aforementioned incidents, and thereby expresses its concern – and dismay, at the developments.

The Sri Lanka Press Institute is the umbrella organisation of the Sri Lanka College of Journalism and the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka and is managed by its four constituent partners, viz., the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors’ Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and the

Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, and has the support of the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Federation of Media Employees Federation, and the South Asia Free Media Association (Sri Lanka Chapter).

 

 

Another journalist warned not to report matters related to defence

 

31 May 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The FMM has learnt that a senior defence reporter attached to the Sinhala Divaina newspaper of the Upali Newspapers Group, Sirimevan Kasturiarachchi was sternly warned against reporting matters to defence and the Sri Lankan Army by an unknown group that had stormed into his residence on 29th May 2008 at about 4am.

FMM vehemently condemn this warning and see it as being linked to the recent spike in attacks against journalists reporting on matters related to the national security and defence.

Mr. Sirimevan Kasthuriarachchi, a former Officer of the Sri Lanka Air Force and with a brother who is missing in action while fighting in the North and East has reported defence related news for over two decades.  When he had imparted this information to the group, he was told that irrespective of who he was and what he said that reporting of matters related to defence needed to stop forthwith.

Mr. Kasthuriarachchi notes that of late, officials had blocked his access to information from the Army.

This incident is a yet another example of the prevailing violence against media personnel and the growing challenges to independent reporting and analysis of the on-going war between the Government and the LTTE.

FMM requestss the Police to look investigate this incident which we see as one that further erodes media freedom in Sri Lanka and puts into question the ability and willingness of the Government to protect and strengthen the freedom of expression.