SRI LANKA Christians And Media Rights Groups Protest Media Harassment

On 2008-7-8
COLOMBO (UCAN) — Christian priests joined representatives of media rights group at a “silent protest” against media harassment in front of the Colombo Magistrates Court.

A Catholic priest joins Christians in Colombo on June 30 protesting the government detention of Christian journalist J.S. Tissainayagam.
Police officers guarded the court on June 30 as about 50 journalists and Anglican and Catholic priests stood in silent protest holding placards. These bore photos of detained Christian journalist Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissanayagam and written messages demanding justice for journalists.
The police Terrorist Investigation Division took Tissanayagam into custody on March 6. The Protestant Tamil reporter for The Sunday Times newspaper and chief editor of Outreach Multimedia (, an online magazine, has yet to be charged or released.
Journalists have been arrested, threatened and harassed since the civil war between Tamil secessionists and the Sinhalese-led government began in 1983. Fourteen journalists have been killed and seven abducted since 2006, according to media reports.
Catholic Father Anton Jayananda of Colombo archdiocese stood holding a picture of the detained journalist.
“As children of God, the first gift we received is freedom, the freedom of expression and freedom of information. We are on the side of freedom of information, and it is the media that takes the cause of providing true information to the people,” he told UCA News.
“When that freedom is restrained,” he said, “we have to stand up for it.”
Reverend Marimuthupillai Sathivel, pastor of Anglican St. Mark’s Church in Dandugama, Colombo, told UCA News, “According to today’s biblical language, the media is the prophetic voice and the journalists are the prophets.”
When journalists criticize those in power, he added, the authorities try to silence reporters by harassing them.
“Tissa (Tissanayagam) is a present-day prophet and a voice of the people,” the Anglican priest said, “so the authorities are trying to silence him.”
Sunanda Deshapriya, media spokesman for the Free Media Movement, asserted “prolonged violation of human rights” in Tissanayagam’s case, arguing “his detention for over 115 days is against even natural justice.”
The demonstrators want authorities either to charge or release the journalist, Deshapriya told UCA News. “Instead he is being kept in a police station, where there are not even basic facilities, for a long period.”
Reverend Sathivel remarked, “If the people understood this situation properly, then a united movement would come forward to protect the media in Sri Lanka.”
Five media organizations staged the demonstration: Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Federation of Media Employees Trade Union and Free Media Movement.
Christian groups organized a campaign in February against media suppression and the murder of journalists, asserting the people’s right to know the truth. The Catholic press also has appealed for media freedom.
In recent incidents, Catholic journalist Keith Noyhar, a deputy editor of The Nation, was abducted on May 22. He was left near his home the following day, badly beaten and unconscious. On July 2, unidentified assailants assaulted journalist Namal Perera, who serves as project coordinator for the Sri Lanka Press Institute, and an official of the British High Commission.
National Peace Council, an NGO, condemned the recent attacks on journalists in a July 1 statement.
Article printed from Union of Catholic Asian News: