Free Media Movement -Monthly e bulletin May 2008

1. 1st May  –  Female journalist threatened
2. 3rd May   – Defense correspondent attacked
3. 4th May  – TV network advised to self censor
4.  4th May  – Gov. says  that treacherous  media should be banned
5. 5th May  – State media misused
6. 7th May  – 0pposition advertisements  banned
7. 8th May  – Attempt to stop Foreign news-agencies covering election
8. 9th May  – Editor assaulted and robbed
9. 9th May  – Journalist injured in bomb blast
10. 11th May – Party news paper attack SLWJA leadership
11. 11th May  – FMETU general secretary barred
12. 16th May  – Jaffna newspaper threatened
13.  17th May – Web Media hacked
14.  20th May  – Provincial journalist threatened
15.  20th May     – Periodical editor threatened 
16.  19th May – Journalist assaulted in east
17.  19th May  – TV crew assaulted, van damaged
18.  22nd May – Journalist abducted, beaten and warned not to speak
19. 23rd May  – Editor in chief received death threats
20. 26th May   –SLWJA leaders threatened with death
21. 26th May  –Defense analyst/ media activist   threatened 
22. 27TH May – Unauthorized military visit to  SLPI
23. 28th May  – Journalist killed
24. 28th May  – Suspicious vehicle  in front of editor’s house
25.  29th May  – Defense correspondent threatened
26. 31st May  – Defense ministry website name certain  media & FMM
27. 31st  May  –  Journalists in custody for 11 weeks
Other news
1.   3rd May  – South Asia press freedom report released
2. 27th May  – FMM AGM 2008 held
3. 6th May   – WPFD commemorated
4. 23rd May – Campaign to protest abduction on Keith
5.  30/31st May –International consultation on Safety of SL journalists
Free Media Movement

Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka
E – Bulletin, May 2008
1.1st May   – Female journalist threatened
Female Tamil journalist Krishni of Panos Sri Lanka was threatened by unknown group when she was on her way home. Recently she had produced a radio programe on the media freedom situation in Sri Lanka for Panos radio.  She was asked not to cover FMM convener in her programmes. Krishni made a complaint to the police on the incident.

2. 3rd May   – Defense correspondent attacked
Sri Lankan Government launched another vicious attack against The Sunday Times Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent Iqbal Athas 3rd May. In an article published on the Ministry of Defence website the government accuses him of concocting facts regarding the debacle faced by the Sri Lankan Army recently in Muhamalai, thereby setting himself up as a stooge of the LTTE. This is not the first time Iqbal Athas has been called a terrorist and traitor by the Government for his courageous reporting of the on-going war. These vicious attacks against Iqbal Athas by the Government are clear attempts of harassment, intimidation and the incitement of hatred.

3. 4th May  –  TV network advised to self censor
In a letter sent to MTV net work information ministry advised them not to show any body parts when reporting violent incidents like bomb blasts. This letter singed by secretary to media ministry was addressed to all media institutions. In early 2000 such a circular was sent to all media but government was not able to impose its request.   Some TV channels started to self censor their footages after this circular.

4.  4th May  – Gov. says  that treacherous  media should be banned
Defence Secretary and brother of the President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in a recent interview had called for the ban on independent media he thought published news stories detrimental to the security forces. “Mr. Rajapaksa further termed as media ‘traitors’ those who published reports seen as harmful towards the security forces and military operations and stressed that such media should be banned.” This is not the first time the younger brother of the President had openly threatened media.

5. 5th May   – State media misused
The government openly misused the public services media institutions which are under government political control for their political propaganda in the eastern provincial council election held on 10th May.  on the top of misusing the national level TV , Radio and news papers a temporary TV station and two radio  stations were established using public services media facilities to do its political propaganda.

6. 7th May  –  0pposition advertisements  banned
State controlled News papers refused to carry advertisements of the main opposition political party UNP related to the provincial council elections in the eastern province.  The UNP had even paid the cost of advertisements before hand.

7. 8th May  – Attempt to stop Foreign news agencies covering election
Military authorities turned back journalist Ravi Nesman and photographer Gamunu Amarasinghe of AP insisting that they need a special permission to cover the election in East.  . On their way back they were warned at every check point not to take any by roads.  Maj. Gen. Palitha Fernando, a senior official in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) told the journalists that foreign media needs a special permission to cover the elections. MOD later reversed its decision after journalist’s rights groups and election monitoring organizations raised the issue with authorities protesting the arbitrary decision of its officials.  

8. 9th May  – Editor assaulted and robbed
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.  .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.

9. 9th May  – Journalist injured in bomb blast
Provincial journalist P. Jayasingha was injured in the bomb blast took place in restaurant in Ampara town on the 9th late evening, day before the provincial council election in the East.  He received minor injuries, admitted to the Ampara hospital and discharged after three days. The blast took place inside a restaurant which has a new paper stand in its front section.

10. 11th May  – Party news paper attack SLWJA leadership
In an article published on 11th May   Sinhala language weekly news paper Lanka,   which is close to extreme nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)   labeled the leadership of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association as traitors who work with pro LTTE NGOs. President Sanath Balasuriya and Secretary Poddala Jayantha made written complaint to the Inspector General of Police. In their complaint they insisted that the charge made by the paper could pose a danger to their life. Police has not initiated any inquiry so far.

11. 11th May  – FMETU general secretary barred
5 media organization wrote a letter to Media mister protesting the decision of Chairman Associated News papers of Ceylon Limited (Lake House) to prohibit Mr. Darmasiri Lankapeli General Secretary, Federation of Media Employers Trade Union entering the union office located inside the institution after his retirement.  Mr. Lankapeli is the general secretary of the Lakhouse workers union as well.

12. 16th May  – Jaffna newspaper threatened
Yal Thinakural a Tamil daily published in Jaffna was threatened by military on 16th Friday. The news paper was asked to change its caption of a peaceful agitation to prayer campaign by high ranking military office who visited the newspaper office. 
13.   17th May – Web Media hacked
In letter address to FMM Lanka Dissent web  site  alleged that an electronic media observation unit set up by the  government agency is now actively engaged in the disruption of independent web based news services. As it notes: …….. recently set up an electronic media observation unit at a building adjacent to Standard Chartered Bank in front of the …… 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 letter could be viewed at http://www.lankadissent.com/allnews/2008_05_16_01_news.htm.  More incidents of this nature have been reported there after.

14.  20th May  – Provincial journalist threatened
Padaviya (Anuradhapura district) provincial correspondent of Lakbima Sinhala daily Chinthaka Sirisena was threatened with death on 20th May by a village office over an article published criticising some of his activities. Journalist made a complaint (No CIB 2 – 387 -112) at Padaviaya police station.

15.  20th May    – Periodical editor threatened 
A Colombo based Tamil language monthly newspaper Thirvu was asked to close down by threatening telephone caller twice.  Thirvu is owned and run by young group of Muslims aims at providing Muslim political point of view on social political developments. It has been critical of the government in the recent past. Editor of Thivu Assiz Nizardeen made a complaint at  local police station.

16.  19th May – Journalist assaulted in east
Free lance journalist J.L. Jawfarkhan was beaten by party supporters on 19th in Kathankudy, Batticloa.    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. Mr. Jawfarkhan has made a complaint to the Kathankudi Police, identifying the persons who beat him.

17.   19th May  – TV crew assaulted, van damaged
On 19th May 2008 late night, the Sirasa TV crew were  filming pandols and lanterns erected for the Buddhist festival Vesak in the town of Kiribathgoda Colombo was phicicaly assaulted by a gang,  snatched the TV camera, smashed it on the ground and hit the vehicle windows with it. The crew heard the gang talking among themselves to set fire to the vehicle with the crew.  Sensing the life threatening danger looming the crew get out of the vehicle and mingled with other people present to see the religious decorations. The attack was allegedly masterminded by a government minister. 

18.  22nd May – Journalist abducted, beaten and warned not to speak
Keith Noyahr, Deputy Editor and Defense analyst of the English weekly The Nation was abducted late evening 22nd May  and dropped near his  home early 23rd morning, after mercilessly assaulting him. There is no other reason for abducting and assaulting his independent him than his writing and analysis of the war in the North. His reporting was critical of high-ranking military officers and the Government’s approach to and conduct of the war. Hand cupped and blindfolded by the abductors he was asked to revel his military sources. Before he was dropped near his home he was warned not to speak any thing related to the abduction telling him that they know all movements of children, including their school and tuition classes.

19. 23rd May  – Editor in chief received death threats
Editor of chief of The Nation the newspaper Keith Noyahr worked received reliable information that he could be a target of anti media squads. This  threats were directly related to the strong position taken by The Nation regarding the abduction of its defense columnist Keith Noyahr. CO of the Nation group of news papers Mr. Krishatha Coorey  too received death threats and had to leave the country temporally.

20. 26th May   -SLWJA leaders threatened with death
Defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksha summoned and reprimanded the President and General Secretary of the SLWJA over two hours on 26th May. He bluntly told them that:  That it is unacceptable to criticise the armed forces whilst working in State newspapers;  That anyone other than the leaders of the armed forces can be criticized;  That the aim of our protest was to criticise the armed forces and that cannot be permitted;  If both journalists continue criticising the military, neither the Secretary of Defence nor the regime are in a position to prevent actions taken against them by groups/persons who revere the Army Commander. This warning amounts to direct threat to their life by a senior government officer.

21.  26th May  -Defense analyst/ media activist   threatened 
Defense annalist and person in charge of advocacy section of Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) Namal Perera was intimidated by motorcycle riding unknown persons on 26th May. His home address was requested saying that a gift form a Mobile Telephone company has to be delivered.  Instead of a gift riders arrived his home rode up and down and went away. This is the third time in recent past such riders had visited journalists who voice critical opinions on o going war.

22.  27TH May – Unauthorized military visit to  SLPI
Armed persons dressed in uniform of the Sri Lanka Army arrived at the headquarters of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI).  A 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. He refused to produce any ID. Military Spokesman of the Ministry of Defence told SLPI that Sri Lanka Army had not authorized any member of its Force to make any such inquiries.  SLPI made an entry at the Narahenpita Police Station. This is a clear indication of unrecorded investigation by the military.

23.  28th May  – Journalist killed
Sirasa, Shakthi and MTV Television Network Jaffna district correspondent P. Devakumar was hacked to death om 28th May. 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.

24.  28th May  – Suspicious vehicle  in front of editor’s house
On 28th May around 4.30 early in the morning   a heavy vehicle parked out side hour the residence of Frederica Jans, editor Montage, a monthly social political magazine and waited for an hour or so. The vehicle had its lights on and engine running.  Frederica Jans also writes on defense matters. Frederica Jans is South Asia co- coordinator of International News Safety Institute . 

25.    29th May  – Defense correspondent threatened
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. Mr. Sirimevan Kasthuriarachchi, a former Officer of the Sri Lanka Air Force 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.

26. 31st May  – Defense ministry website name certain  media & FMM
www.defense.lk , the website of the defense ministry and its secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksha advised the government “be mindful” of certain media in an article published on 31st:  To Any discernible person who sees Sirasa TV, or reads the Sunday Leader, the Morning Leader, Iru Dina, the Daily Mirror, and the Sunday Times, Lanka Dissent, Lanka E news, etc can understand the way that the soldiers are being humiliated, scorned and blamed …in .campaigns undertaken by their paid Cassandras. However, we urge the government to be mindful excessive falsification of facts committed by some of the agencies as such action may be detrimental to the national interest in the international forums. ..Secondly, we have reasonable concerns over the behavior of the FMM it self. We have never seen Mr.  Sunanda Deshapriya, convener of the FMM wailing in Sirasa over the media freedom in the LTTE held areas.
27. 31st  May  –  Journalists in custody for 11 weeks
It now almost 11 weeks since the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lank Police arrested and detained journalist J. S. Tissainayagam, columnist of the Sunday Times and Editor of the www.outreach.com website, V. Jesiharan, owner of the E-Kwality printing press and Manager of www.outreach.com and his partner Walarmathi.  None of them have been charged in any court of law to date. Tissainayagam is kept in a cell without proper ventilation in unhealthy conditions and Jesiharan was subjected to intense torture when he was arrested. Jesiharan’s partner Walarmathi, who had nothing to do with www.outreach.com and had undergone a recent operation, is in need of medical care but is barred by the TID from seeing medical specialists.
Other News
1.  3rd May   – South Asia press freedom report released
IN THE BALANCE , Press freedom in South Asia 2007- 2008  was released on world press freedom day.  The report which is available on IFJ and FMM websites has a detailed section on Foe violations in Sri Lanka.

2. 27th May   – FMM AGM 2008 held
The Free Media Movement held its 16th AGM on 27th May 2008 and elected office bearers for the coming year:  Convener – Uvindu Kurukulasuriya; Secretary – K. Rukshangna; Assistance secretary – Tarindi Fonseka; Treasurer – Kasun Yapa; Spokesperson and international relations – Sunanda Deshapriya; Trustees –  Ariyananda Dombagahawatta  and K.W.W. Janaranjana  

3. 6th May   – WPFD commemorated 
Media centre consists of 5 media organizations including FMM organized number of activities to commemorate the World Press Freedom Day.  20,000 leaflets were distributed, 20 banners with the slogan stop war against journalists in Sri Lanka were displayed around the capital city and vigil in the memory of killed journalists was held. Hundreds of journalists and HR activists participated in the vigil.

4. 23rd May   – Campaign to protest abduction of Keith
A protest campaign by media centre was held to protest the abduction of journalists Keith Noyahr on 23rd May Kollupitiya, Colombo. Hundreds of journalists took par in the lunch hour protest, carrying placards of who did it, – the abduction of Keith Noyahr? and expose – the abductors of Keith Noyahr
5. 30/31st May -International consultation on Safety of SL journalists
Two day international consultation on journalist safety in Sri Lanka was held in Brussels on 30/31st May 2008. Leading journalists’ organizations of Sri Lanka and 9 International media freedom organizations participated in the consultation.

 

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