Digital Campaign Skills training in Colombo

South Asia Solidarity Media Network’s (SAMSN) gender meeting was held in Colombo on 26th July 205. This was gathered under the scope of IFJ Asia-Pacific’s Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ‘South Asia Media Freedom and Solidarity Project’ and Union to Unions ‘Stronger Unions for Stronger Media’. Local partners of this meeting were South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) and Free MEdia Movement.

Participants of the Gender Meeting

Participants of the Gender Meeting

The recommendations of the study Inside the News – Challenges and aspirations of Women journalist in Asia and Pacific was discussed at this meetings and further on how to implement the recommendations in each country and also as a region.  See the full report here

Free Media Movement (FMM) hosted the meeting as well as the  two day SAMSN Digital Campaign Skills training and campaign development meeting , under the scope of IFJ Asia-Pacific’s UNDEF-supported program for 2014-2016, ‘South Asia Media Freedom for Democracy Project’.  This activity is also co-funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Union to Union. The training was held on 27 & 28Th July 2015.

Presenting campaign ideas

Presenting campaign ideas

Selected members of IFJ affiliated media organisations from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated in this training. Training was designed to develop digital campaigns for south asia countries on media freedom.

Training

Participants of the training

 

Prior to this training a local training has also been conducted on digital campaign skills for local participants from across Sri Lanka at Sri Lanka Press Institute. This was also coordinated by FMM.

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FMM E – bulletin Feb. 2008

   

Contents

4th Feb.:  Sri Lanka blocks SMS on Independence day
4th Feb.: IFJ Asia Regional Leaders write to President and Government of Sri Lanka 

4th Feb. Some media discrediting soldiers’ sacrifices – President

12th Feb. Journalist arrested for taking photographs
12th Feb. : Police called in to evict journalists
12th Feb : Police harass journalists in Batticaloa
14th Feb:  Thousand strong march in defense of media freedom
14th Feb: TV news director followed by hostile group
15th Feb.: Journalist Parameshwari threatened

15th Feb:  Four human rights defenders right to association taken away
18th Feb: Public Performance Board chair removed
19th Feb.: Police withdraw its comments on killed journalists

20th Feb: Police confiscate  a PC belonging to NGO head
20th Feb.  Hate attack on pro peace writer
21st Feb.: NPC official hinders media personnel who went to lodge complaint
23th Feb: police assault TV journalist covering bomb blast in Colombo
23rd Feb. : Journalists residence visited by suspicious gang
27th Feb: SLBC head removed by president
28th Feb: journalists targeted over coverage
28th Feb: Journalist assaulted by a monk
29th SLRC head ordered to resign
28th January: www.tamilnet.com    
 

FMM E – bulletin
January 2008

2nd February: photographer assaulted

The OIC of Rambukkana Police, M.P. Dias allegedly assaulted a photographer attached to the Ceylon Tourist Board on 2nd  for not getting up from the seat when the OIC arrived at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. SSP Wilfred Mahanayake who is in charge of the area said that this is an ‘insult’ to the police service, and stern action would be taken against the OIC if he is proven guilty.

4th February: Sri Lanka blocks SMS on Independence day

Sri Lanka’s telecom networks blocked text messaging on mobile phones as part of security measures for the national celebrations marking 60 years of independence from Britain.  Phone service providers may bar SMSs (Short Message Services) for a certain period if unnecessary public fear is created through text messages prior to national events or emergency situations, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) said.

4th February: IFJ Asia Regional Leaders write to President and Government of Sri Lanka  

In a joint letter the representatives of journalists’ unions and associations across the Asia-Pacific region, meeting in Kuala Lumpur, appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Government of Sri Lanka to protect the safety of journalists in Sri Lanka and uphold the rights of the media to report freely. The statement said “We condemn in the strongest terms the disrespect and outright physical aggression shown by members of the Government and senior public officials toward journalists, media institutions and the right to freedom of speech.”

4th February: Some media discrediting soldiers’ sacrifices – President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said some media are engaged in a campaign to discredit sacrifices by the security forces while Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake notes that there are media institutions which support terrorism. They were speaking at the launching of a new satellite TV channel under the Ministry of Defence on Independence Day. According to a statement posted on the Defence Ministry website the President said that he was delighted as the Commander in Chief, that the Defence Ministry could set up a TV channel dedicated to the war heroes at a time that certain media are engaged in a campaign to discredit soldiers’ sacrifices.

12th February: Journalist arrested for taking photographs

On 12 February 2008, Gemunu Amarasinghe, a photojournalist working for Associated Press (AP), was arrested by Civil Defense Committee members while he was covering students entering Isipathana College, Colombo. He was doing a photo story on the reopening of schools after their being closed for a week. He was handed over to the police by members of the Civil Defense Committee and taken to the Narahenpita police station. He was released nearly two hours later after intervention by media institutions and organizations. His arrest and detention meant that he could not carry out his duty as a journalist.

12th February : Police called in to evict journalists

Deputy Chairman of the Southern Provincial Council asked the police to come into the council meeting on 12th February  complaining that journalists were photographing a incident of the council.  Police prevented journalists from leaving the venue of the meeting,  for nearly one hours. Journalists Ajith Niroshan and a number of other journalists were covering the council meeting videoed a member carrying the mace out of the meeting when the Deputy Chairman summoned the Police.

12th February: Police harass journalists in Batticaloa
 

Policemen posted at the entrance of Batticaloa Secretariat stopped two Muslim journalists from entering the Secretariat premise Tuesday around 10:30 a.m, according to a complaint made by the journalists to Batticaloa Senior Police Commissioner, H. M. P. Hearath.
Policemen verbally abused the journalists M. S. M. Noordeen and S. M. M. Musthafa, and prevented them from taking the motorcycles up to the Secretariat building though it was customary for journalists attending conferences to ride into the Secretariat premises, the complaint further said.

14th February :  Thousand strong march in defense of media freedom

Organised by the Movement Against Media Suppression, hundreds of journalists were joined on the thousand-strong protest march for press freedom in Colombo on February 14,  by a broad cross section of Sri Lankan society, including many from the trade union movement, human rights activists, civil society and the women’s movement. In the strongest show of solidarity for media freedom in recent times, media groups and civil society pledged to work together to defend and promote freedom of expression.

14th February:TV news director followed by hostile group

News director of the popular Sinhala TV channel Sirasa, was followed by a hostile group that forced open the door of his car in an apparent attempt to harm him. A group of unknown persons had forced open the door of his car while he was jogging on that morning. Then, between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (local time), he was followed by a pick-up truck that tried to overtake his car. There are also reports of suspicious persons keeping surveillance of his movements on 17 February. A complaint was lodged at police on 15 February 2008. The incident occurred on the night of 14 February.

15th February: Journalist Parameshwari threatened

Journalists Parameshwari Munusami, who was kept in police custody for more than 3 months without any charges, continues to be followed by unknown persons. Unknown persons has visited the neighbourhood of her relatives and shown her photographs to taxi drives saying that she is a wanted woman. Newspaper she worked had to close done because of government pressure and harassment.

15th February:  Four human rights defenders right to association taken away

Four human rights defenders associated with a human rights organisation, Right to Life, have been deprived of their right to engage in peaceful activities by a permanent injunction issued by the District Court of Negombo which has held that there is no legal right to engage in such peaceful activities. They are: (M.K. Rodrigo (former president of the worker’s council) Ms. A.N. Mapalagamo, (coordinator of TRY, a worker’s welfare association) Brito Fernando, and Philip Dissanayake). This permanent injunction was issued on February 15, 2008 in case No. 2835/5. This court order is unprecedented in Sri Lanka as the constitution guarantees the freedom of association, freedom of expression and the freedom to form trade unions. ( AHRC)

19th February: Police withdraw its comments on killed journalists

the head of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Sri Lankan Police claimed that journalist Sampath Lakmal, who was murdered in 2006, was a paid military informant. DIG H. W. Prathapasinghe made this statement to an English newspaper on 17 February 2008. He denied making such a statement after FMM questioned the validity of his statement.Journalist Sampath Lakmal was lured out from his house where he lived with his mother on 2 July 2006 and shot dead in the early morning hours. Mrs. Rupa de Silva, his mother provided the Police with the name of the military officer who asked Sampath Lakmal to join him that fatal night. Although the court has taken up the case eight times so far, the Police have failed to produce any suspects or even to record a statement from the military officer.

18th February: Public Performance Board chair removed

Renowned author, critic and novelist Prof. Somaratne Balasuriya was removed as Chairman of the Public Performance Board. A decision taken by Balasuriya regarding ‘Aksharaya’, a film by Asoka Handagama, prompted the move, Secretary to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs G.L.W. Amarasinghe said.  Mr. Balasuria ididnot support the moves to ban the film Aksharaya. Responding to a question as to whether he expected independence at the PPB when accepting the position, Balasuriya said that he had been promised a free hand. He said that in the beginning, he was allowed to function independently, but things changed later on. Recently, veteran film director Dharmasena Pathiraja was removed from the chair of the National Art Council, after his attempt to make the institution independent met with stiff opposition from the Cultural Ministry Secretary, reported Lankadissent.com.

20th February: Police confiscates a PC belonging to NGO head

The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) took into custody a computer used by Dr. Rama Mani, the former Executive Director of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES), to check for “controversial” correspondence, as reported by “The Sunday Times” on 24 February.In a statement FMM said that “Our interest is to strengthen the open exchange of competing ideas that we strongly believe and affirm are a cornerstone of a vibrant democracy. Dr. Mani had an inalienable right to hold her own opinions and ideas, to articulate them, to promote them and discuss them with friends, colleagues and associates in Sri Lanka and internationally.”

20th February:  Hate attack on pro peace writer

Peace advocate and writer Jehan Perera were verbally abused  by some unknown group while he was jogging near his house.  He recounted the incident in one of his articles:  “On the weekend as I enjoyed the early morning hours in the park near where I live, I heard a raucous noise.  Not thinking it was for me, I continued with my jog.  But on the next round it was unmistakable. The sound coming from across the distance was “traitor, traitor.”  I could not see who it was because the sound came from between parked cars.  But whoever it was wanted to make it known that I was the target.  “Jehan Perera, traitor, traitor”, he shouted. ”

21st February: NPC official hinders media personnel who went to lodge complaint

Five media organizations lodged a complaint with the National Police Commission on Feb. 26th  regarding the alleged assault on Sugath Dharmapriya, a journalist of Derana TV, by Mount Lavinia OIC Mahesh Perera. K.E. Vamadevan, a Deputy Secretary of the National Police Commission had interrupted and verbally abused the camera crews of two TV stations who went to cover the event.

23th February: police assault TV journalist covering bomb blast in Colombo

On 23 February, Sugath Dharmapriya, a news producer of the Derana TV channel covering the bomb blast on a bus in Mount Lavinia, a suburb of Colombo, was abused and assaulted by a Senior Inspector of the Mount Lavinia Police, Mahesh Perera. Inspector Mahesh Perera had first abused Sugath Dharmapriya by throwing him out on to the street, loudly proclaiming that the journalist had to be summarily chased out from the scene. Inspector Mahesh Perera’s contemptible action forced the journalist to leave the scene for his safety. The Mount Lavinia Police refused to file a complaint on the incident. The journalist was forced to lodge his complaint at the Special Crimes section of the Mirihana Police Station.

23rd February: Journalists residence visited by suspicious gang

The residence of a journalist who has published critical stories on minister Mervyn Silva’s intrusion into SLRC on 27th December was visited by a suspicious group on motorcycles on 27 February. The group inquired about his whereabouts and left as he was not at home. He received suspicious phone calls on 13 and 17 February. FMM is concerned that he also may also be a target of unruly elements related to SLRC incident.

27th February: SLBC head removed by president

Sunil Sarath Perera has been removed as chairman and member of the director board of the state-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). And, his replacement in the acting capacity is the Director of Government Information, Anusha Pelpita. ‘Lanka Dissent.com ’ reported that  that the president has made the change.

28th February: journalists targeted over coverage

A four-member gang allegedly attempted to harm a journalist attached to the State owned TV broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC). The journalist, Assistant Director News Camera Priyal Ranjith Perera, was involved in videotaping the infamous incident on 27 December 2007 when Government MP and Minister of Labour Mervyn Silva wreaked havoc inside SLRC along with a gang of thugs, some of whom were drug dealers, murderers and underworld criminals. The unidentified gang threatened journalist Perera on the evening of 27 February while he was in his residence in Pitakotte.

28th February: Journalist assaulted by  a monk

Journalist Pankaja Sankalapa of Independent Television Network (ITN) was scolded using filthy language and assaulted by a chief monk Ven. Getamane Siridhammakitti Thera of a Buddhist religious school in Mathara.  The incident happened in front of 1500 people who had gathered for a dancing ceremony. The monk was arrested on sexual abuse charges four years ago and was in remand prison before he was released on bail. The monk has assaulted journalist Pankaja for his coverage of the sexual abuse story on ITN.  He logged complaint to Mathra police on the same day.

29th Feb: SLRC head ordered to resign

Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa ordered Director-General of the public service broadcaster, (but government controlled) Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Sisira Kotelawala to immediately tender his resignation. The move said to be part of efforts by the President to restructure the state media according to his liking. Public service media in Sri Lanka are politically controlled by governing political parties to their advantage.

29th February: www.tamilnet.com  still bolcked 

www.tamilnet.com ,  one of the main news source of ongoing war in Sri Lanka continue to be blocked by all local providers for months now.  Tamil net provides news from the battle zone on Tamil civilians and some times from rebel LTTE. Government has its own website for military information as well as disinformation and provides its own version to media reports on war. 

Continuing attacks against journalists who stood up to the thuggery of Government MP

28th February 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: In yet another serious blow to media freedom, the Free Media Movement (FMM) is appalled to learn that a four-member gang allegedly attempted to harm a journalist attached to the State owned TV broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC). 

The journalist, Assistant Director News Camera Priyal Ranjith Perera, was involved in videotaping the infamous incident on 27th December 2007 when Government MP and Minister of Labour Mervyn Silva wreaked havoc inside SLRC along with a gang of thugs, some of whom were drug dealers, murderers and underworld criminals.

The unidentified gang threatened journalist Perera on the evening of 27th February while he was in his residence in Pitakotte.

According to the journalist four persons clad in black arrived at his home and asked for a deal to film a wedding ceremony. “They came and rang the bell of my home. While I was opening the door I got suspicious by the look of them. I am used to taking precautions after the December 27 incident. So, I told them that those doing such video work are not here right now.” At that point, he said, one of the gang had pulled out something that looked like a knife from his trouser pocket and tried to harm him. “I shut the door with a bang and shouted saying thieves had broken into my home. My neighbours having heard me screaming and rushed to see what was wrong.” According to eye witnesses the attackers fled in a three-wheeler. Journalist Perera went on to say that “I suspect a link between the December 27 melee and this incident. My staff filmed the mayhem that day. Since then I have been under threat”.

Meanwhile, residence of another journalist who has published critical stories on minister Silva’s intrusion into SLRC has been visited by suspicious group in motor cycles on 27th February. The group has inquired about his whereabouts and left as he was not at home.   He has received suspicious phone calls on 13th and 17 Februray. FMM is concerned that he also may also be a target of unruly elements related to SLRC incident.

The FMM notes with dismay that this is the third and forth confirmed cases of a journalist who has been threatened or attacked after standing up to the thuggery of MP Mervyn Silva. Many more have been threatened and are fearful of coming out in the open. Twenty-one journalists of SLRC have been questioned to date on the incident.

Not a single thug who accompanied MP Mervyn Silva has been brought to book. Not a single investigation or disciplinary hearing on MP Mervyn Silva has been conducted. Promises made by the SLFP Central Committee to hold the deranged MP accountable for his actions have not borne any fruit. The Police have yet to even question the Minister. Enjoying the spoils of the proximity to absolute power, the MP is free to do as he sees fit while journalists today are under threat and in fear of their lives from criminal and underworld gangs in the service of the Minister. 

The President of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association  Sanath Balasuriya  told FMM that  “the authorities concerned can dispel our deep concern about the safety and security of our colleagues in SLRC only through an urgent, open and meaningful investigation to identify the perpetrators who threatened journalist Priyal Ranjith Perera. At this point those who witnessed the December 27th incident should be united to overcome the present challenges”.

It is a stance that the FMM stands by and fully endorses.

Sri Lankan police assault TV journalist covering bomb blast in Colombo

24th February 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is appalled to learn of treatment meted out by a Senior Inspector of the Sri Lankan Police to a journalist who was on the scene of a bomb blast in Colombo. On 23rd February, Sugath Dharmapriya, a news producer of the Derana TV channel covering the bomb blast on a bus in Mount Lavinia, a suburb of Colombo, was abused and assaulted by a Senior Inspector of the Mount Lavinia Police, Mahesh Perera.

The FMM unequivocally condemns this reprehensible behaviour by the Senior Police Officer.

Inspector Mahesh Perera had first abused Sugath Dharmapriya by throwing him out on to the street, loudly proclaiming that the journalist had to be summarily chased out from the scene. Inspector Mahesh Perera’s contemptible action forced the journalist to leave scene for his safety.  The FMM is aware of TV footage of this incident that serves as evidence of the senior Police Inspector’s incredible behaviour. What is even worse, the Mount Lavinia Police refused to file a complaint lodged by Sugath Dharmapriya on the incident on the grounds that they do not entertain complaints against their superior officers! The journalist was forced to lodge his complaint at the Special Crimes section of the Mirihana Police Station.

We note with dismay that this same senior Police Officer verbally abused another TV journalist, Aravinda Sri Nissanka a month ago and detained him for over two hours without any valid reason.

Inspector Mahesh Perera’s manic behaviour is a telling marker of the significant deterioration of law and order in Sri Lanka. It is of serious concern to the FMM that the Police now openly and with total impunity undermine and threaten the safety of journalists who seek to report in the public interest on events that have a bearing on national security, war, peace and governance. At a time when media personnel and journalists are under growing fear for their lives in a country that has been repeatedly noted as one the most dangerous places for journalists in the world, actions by those such as Inspector Mahesh Perera demonstrate quite clearly the inability and unwillingness of State authorities to respect and strengthen media freedom.

In light of the complete silence by the Inspector General of Police to these concerns repeatedly raised by the FMM over a period of time, we ask all local and international democratic forces to impress upon the State and the Police that this behaviour is intolerable and that stern and urgent action needs to be taken against all those who undermine fundamental rights including the freedom of expression.

The FMM also requests the National Police Commission to look into these incidents as a matter of priority.

TV news director followed by hostile group

15th February 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is disturbed to hear of a complaint made by Susil Kedelpitiya, News Director of the popular Sinhala TV channel Sirasa to the Police HQ in Colombo that he was followed by a hostile group that forced open the door of his car in an apparent attempt to harm him.  The complaint was lodged on the morning of the 15th after the incident occurred on the night of 14th.

Kedelpitiya notes that on the morning of 14th, there were two unknown persons trespassing in front of his residence. A group of unknown persons had the forced open the door of his car while he was this morning jogging and said to themselves” oh he is not there” Then around 8.30- 9.30 pm  he was followed by a pick up vehicle almost trying to over take his car. There are reports of suspicious persons keeping a surveillance on his movements on 17th Feb.

Sirasa, the Sinhala language channel of the MTV – MBC network has been at the forefront of news coverage and investigative reporting in the public interest especially through a news segment called Action TV.  Action TV has recently exposed a number of stories on corruption involving powerful figures. For instance in its news bulletin of 14th February it exposed how 2,800 50kg bags of sugar ordered by a Magistrate to be destroyed found their way to the market, with some bags re-sold to local merchants and illicit breweries.

The FMM stands convinced that the attempt to harm journalist Kindelpitiya is related to his work as News Director at Sirasa and most probably by powerful figures involving large-scale corruption deals. 

We unequivocally condemn this attempt to intimidate, harm and harass a journalist.  We are angered and frustrated by miserable failure of government and Police to investigate large-scale corruption and misuse of power as exposed by the media in Sri Lanka. The culture of impunity and vicious anti-media rhetoric by public officials and government MPs fuel this corruption by severely undermining the safety and security of journalists who highlight gross abuses of power.

With the government unable and unwilling to bring to book those responsible for corruption and with journalists under fire for their courageous reporting, we note with alarm that this incident highlights the significant challenges facing media freedom in Sri Lanka today and how little protection there really is for journalists and media personnel who dare to report inconvenient truths.