The Free Media Movement (FMM) expresses its serious disquiet on the arrest and temporary detention of Nagalingam Kennyoodsan, Tamil Programme Producer of the Independent Television Network (ITN) by the Dehiwala Police. He was taken from his boarding room at Malwatte Road, Dehiwala, on 26th August 2008, on mere suspicion. He has worked at the state-controlled ITN for more than ten years.
He was released on the same day, but only after representations made by media organisations. However, he has been asked not to come to work and to go on leave by the management of ITN, again without any lawful reason being given.
FMM also learns that a friend of Mr. Nagalingam, Mr.Kathirkamanathan Ragulan, who is also boarded at the same address, has also been arrested by the Dehiwala Police, produced in courts, and remanded in the Welikada prison. We note with concern that dozens of people of Tamil origin have been arrested around the capital Colombo, as part of security measures that are being taken for the SARRC summit. On the 25th anniversary to the month of the anti-Tamil pogrom of July 1983, and in the light of the continued detention of journalist J. S. Tissainayagam on extremely tenuous legal grounds since March 2008, we consider this to be an act of ethnic discrimination.
While FMM fully acknowledges the duty of the authorities in respect of the security of the capital during an international conference, we are deeply worried about Mr. Nagalingam’s arrest made on mere suspicion, and treating him like a criminal by taking fingerprints before releasing him only on personal bail.
It is also regrettable that even after a Cabinet sub-committee for the protection of media professionals has been established, acts of intimidation and attempts at the humiliation of journalists are continuing. FMM cannot see any positive influence on the curbing of the on-going suppression of the media as a result of the establishment of this ministerial sub-committee. Adding an element of farce to the unfolding tragedy, we note that the sub-committee’s telephone hotline, announced with tremendous fanfare, has been dead for days.