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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IFJ Launches Situation Reports on Bangladesh, Sri Lanka

Bangladesh; Sri Lanka; Situation Report; Asia and Pacific; Press Releases

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The International Federation of Journalists, in collaboration with partners and affiliates released situation reports on journalists’ rights and the state of media freedom in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The information presented in the reports is the result of extensive consultations between the IFJ and its partners, field visits and interviews by IFJ personnel in the two countries.

 

The reports highlight the current priority areas for campaign and advocacy work in the two countries and identify focus areas for future international solidarity actions.

 

In Bangladesh, the deeply polarised nature of national politics continues to create fissures within the media, with owners, who are often compelled to take sides, pressuring professional staff. Political contention is likely to mount as the country approaches national Parliamentary elections in 2013. Constitutional amendments enacted by the current government in 2011, ostensibly to imbed what it portrays as the values of Bangladesh’s liberation struggle, have led to serious discord, and opposition protests have been mounting, particularly against a clause which does away with the system of holding national elections under neutral, caretaker administrations.

 

After several false starts, the process of bringing to account individuals accused of crimes and atrocities during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of liberation began in 2011. But the pressures and political sensitivities associated with the proceedings of the International Crimes Tribunal – a body created by Bangladesh national law – have not abated despite broad consensus on the need for accountability. Media reporting on the proceedings of the tribunal has often come under the scrutiny of the tribunal, which has twice held particular newspapers and journalists guilty of contempt.

 

There have been multiple cases where particular newspapers have been charged under the defamation law. The allocation of broadcast spectrum for television channels is often seen to be a source of exerting control and a form of censorship.

 

Safety issues were highlighted by the brutal twin murder of a journalist couple in the capital city Dhaka, in February, and in a number of retaliatory attacks by political actors, for reporting deemed as critical.

 

Bangladesh’s journalists began a campaign in February 2012 to secure a new wage accord for themselves. Under national law, statutory bodies are required to be created every few years to ensure that journalists’ wages and working conditions are appropriate to their requirements of sustaining a high level of professional motivation and commitment. These efforts were rewarded in June 2012, when a wage board comprising representatives of the journalists’ unions, the media industry and government was constituted under the chairmanship of a former Supreme Court judge.

 

Important policy changes in recent times have enabled a growth of community radio in Bangladesh, though licensing processes are seen as excessively complicated. A right to information bill enacted in 2009 promises greater accountability and transparency in governance, though it is seen to grant too many exceptions and the number of those who have been motivated to use it, is still very modest.

 

IFJ partners in Sri Lanka have been campaigning for media freedom to be recognised as an essential part of the process of national reconciliation, following the end of the country’s quarter-century long civil war in 2009. Their efforts are yet to be recognised, since few reforms have been implemented in the media sector and the recommendations of a high-level commission on national reconciliation remain largely on paper.

 

Media reporting on the process of resettlement and rehabilitation in the country’s Northern Province, which suffered the worst ravages of the civil war, has often been impeded by security personnel who continue to be deployed there. And far from assuring accountability for the number of attacks and killings of journalists during the war, the pattern of violence has persisted in the years following.

 

Journalists and human rights defenders are often attacked by official spokespeople on government-controlled media channels, contributing to an atmosphere of intolerance for even legitimate criticism of the government. Websites that carry news and current affairs content on Sri Lanka have been subject to arbitrary rules of registration and in some cases, to police raids and seizure of equipment.

 

Financially vulnerable media houses have been subject to further pressures as increased costs passed on from banks and financial institutions threatens their sustainability. In addition, change of ownership has often resulted in rapid changes in editorial policies and personnel.

 

The revival of the Press Council of Sri Lanka is seen to embody a very real coercive intent on the part of the government, since the 1973 law under which the body is constituted conceives of a number of possible sanctions against the media, including the power to prosecute under various provisions of criminal law. The Sri Lanka Press Complaints Commission, a self-regulatory body set up by the media industry, has been seeking to establish its credentials as an institution that is fully equipped to deal with current challenges.

 

The situation reports on Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were prepared with the financial support of UNESCO, under the International Programme for the Development of Communications (IPDC). The report on Bangladesh is available in English and Bangla and the report on Sri Lanka, in English, Sinhala and Tamil.

 

The reports can be found here.

 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific 

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Alarming Increase in Hostile Rhetoric, Threats of Reprisals against Journalists in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly deplores the alarming escalation in hostile rhetoric and the barely concealed threats of reprisals that have been made against some of the country’s leading journalists and human rights defenders by representatives of the Sri Lankan government and by state-owned media outlets.

This follows the adoption of a resolution by the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 22, in which the Sri Lankan government was censured for rampant human rights violations during the last phases of the country’s long civil war and urged to initiate urgent measures of reconciliation to ensure a durable peace between the country’s main ethnic groups.

“We observe that state-owned media has in the days since the U.S. made known its intention to table a censure resolution against the Sri Lankan government, been rapidly ramping up the tone of its attacks on the country’s journalists and media freedom defenders,” said the IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park

On January 26, Dinamina, the Sinhala-language daily from the state-owned Associated Newspapers (or Lake House) group, carried a story quoting senior minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, to the effect that exiled journalists who had taken up the campaign for human rights and reconciliation were “traitors” who were bringing the country into “disrepute”.

Later, the English-language daily from the Lake House group, the Daily News, reported that human rights defenders, including journalist and press freedom campaigner Sunanda Deshapriya, were betraying Sri Lanka and continuing to work with the terrorist rump of the defeated Tamil insurgent group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

In an editorial on March 16, Dinamina described human rights defenders as “degenerates” and denounced Deshapriya as a “mouthpiece of the LTTE”. It warned that in a country like Iran, “these kinds of bastards would be stoned to death”.

Dharmasiri Lankapeli, one of the veteran leaders of the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Unions (FMETU) has also been targeted by the state-owned media. The attacks have become particularly harsh since the country’s main professional media associations and journalists’ unions joined hands for a “black January” observance this year, to protest against the continuing climate of impunity for attacks on the right to free speech.

The attacks have also extended to social scientists and political commentators such as P. Saravanamuttu, Nimalka Fernando and Sunila Abeysekara, and prominent figures of the church who have argued the cause of national reconciliation and accountability for human rights abuses since the end of the civil war.

The government-controlled ITN TV channel has been a platform for severe verbal assaults against journalists and human rights defenders. Between January 9 and 24, the channel carried no fewer than five programmes in its daily slot titled “Vimasuma” attacking journalists who had been present during the nineteenth regular session of the UNHRC, for having allegedly “betrayed” the country.

The IFJ learns that vivid and graphic photo-montages have been circulated by various political actors, which represent journalists and other prominent human rights defenders as terrorists and traitors, working at the behest of alien forces.

On March 23, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Public Relations, Mervyn Silva addressed a public demonstration against the UNHRC resolution, threatening to “break the limbs” of any of the exiled journalists if they dared set foot in the country again. Among the journalists mentioned was Poddala Jayantha, who suffered a brutal assault in Colombo city in June 2009 that left him with permanent disabilities, and has lived in exile since January 2010.

Silva has been known for several bruising encounters with the media in recent years and was in July 2009, credibly reported as publicly claiming credit for the murder of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunge in January and the assault on Jayantha in June.

Though he later disavowed the statement attributed to him, Silva’s record as a baiter of journalists committed to human rights and free speech, has continued to cause deep unease.

“We fear that the hostile climate created by the stream of rhetoric from government spokespersons and state-owned media, could engender serious hazards to those who dare to speak up in Sri Lanka for peace and national reconciliation,” said Ms Park.

The dangers are clear and imminent and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has issued a public warning against reprisals that target Sri Lanka’s journalists and human rights defenders.

“We call on the top political leadership in Sri Lanka to promptly distance itself from the manner of hostile rhetoric that has been seen and heard over the last three months,” said Ms Park.

“We urge that serious consideration be given to the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission which recently submitted a comprehensive report pointing the way forward for post-conflict Sri Lanka, after being invested with a wide-ranging mandate by the President of the country.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

By – http://asiapacific.ifj.org/en/articles/alarming-increase-in-hostile-rhetoric-threats-of-reprisals-against-journalists

 

Censorship Imposed on News Alerts by Sri Lanka’s Military Authorities

 

By – IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins affiliates in Sri Lanka in sharply denouncing the latest move towards news censorship in by the country’s authorities.

 

In a letter addressed to various news and media organisations, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) a body which operates under Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defence, has demanded that “any news related to national security, security forces, and the police should get prior approval from the MCNS before dissemination”.

 

The letter is signed by MCNS Director-General Lakshman Hulugalle and dated March 9. It will apply to all news alerts issued through text and SMS over the phone network.

 

Emergency regulations in force for much of Sri Lanka’s quarter-century long civil war allowed for prior censorship of news platforms. Since the lifting of the state of emergency in August 2011, there no longer appears to be a clear legal sanction for censoring news flows.

 

The MCNS directive follows an incident in the north of the country in which three soldiers of the Sri Lankan army were killed. Rumours soon emerged, suggesting that the insurgent army that had waged a quarter-century long civil war against the Sri Lankan government was regrouping. These rumours were soon dispelled by an official statement clarifying that the incident involved a soldier of the Sri Lankan army who had shot two colleagues before turning the gun on himself.

 

There were also news alerts that were sent out at the same time regarding a police officer being arrested while demanding a large bribe, and a botched abduction attempt involving personnel of the armed forces.

 

Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, has warned that the MCNS directive could be the first step towards re-imposing a comprehensive regime of censorship over the media.

 

“We urge the Sri Lankan government to reconsider this move, which does little to rebuild an atmosphere of trust between the country’s ethnic communities after a quarter century of strife”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

 

“The Sri Lankan government should also be aware that the world is waiting in anticipation for it to initiate long overdue gestures of reconciliation that would contribute towards a long-term peace in the island-nation”.

 

“Yet far from implementing the comprehensive recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) — a body appointed with a mandate from Sri Lanka’s President — the Government seems set upon a course of heightened confrontation”.

 

“We call on the Sri Lankan government to withdraw the latest moves towards censorship, and urge serious engagement with all representative bodies to see that the LLRC recommendations, which include significant measures on freedom of speech and the right to information, are implemented”.

 

 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

‘Black January’ Campaign Against Attacks on Journalists in Sri Lanka

25 January 2012 – by IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined the ‘Black January’ campaign against attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka, organized by the Alliance of Media Organizations.

 The month of January 2012, has been nominated as ‘Black January’ in Sri Lanka, by the Alliance of Media Organizations and its supporters in the national and international communities.

The campaign is a response to the attacks on the media that have occurred in the month of January in the past three years, and the failure of the government of Sri Lanka to bring to account those responsible for attacks on numerous journalists.

These attacks include the murder of Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickrematunga in 2009, the disappearance of political columnist Prageeth Ekneligoda in 2010, the attack on Sirasa media network in 2009 and the brutal attack on television producer Lal Hemantha Mawalage in 2008.

In recent years, the month of January has also witnessed the murder of Tamil parliamentarian T Maheshwaran, the abduction of Akuna journalists Sisira Priyankara, Nihal Serasinghe and Lalith Seneviratne and the former army commander Sarath Fonseka’s characterisation of certain journalist as “traitors”.

On January 25, journalists and media workers all over the world will unite in observance of ‘Black January’, culminating in a series of public protests in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.

The IFJ, in solidarity with the Free Media Movement and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) join our colleagues in Sri Lanka, in urging the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct proper investigations into these serious attacks on the media.

The IFJ reminds the Government of Sri Lanka of its deeply disturbing record of default in bringing to account individuals, state agencies and non-state actors who increasingly make journalism and the dissemination of information for the wider public good, a deeply hazardous pursuit.

“The violence against journalists in Sri Lanka and the continuing disregard by the government of Sri Lanka in addressing these crimes is unacceptable”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“The IFJ urges concrete action by authorities in Sri Lanka to take heed of today’s ‘Black January’ protests and address acts of violence against journalists and media workers”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific  

Sri Lanka Court Upholds Alleged Confession by Tissainayagam- IFJ

 

A Sri Lankan court has ruled that an alleged confession made by senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam while detained by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) was voluntary and admissible as evidence in his trial on terrorism charges. The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) is informed however that Tissainayagam was forced to make a statement to TID under extreme duress.

Giving evidence in Colombo’s High Court on November 5, Tissainayagam denied making a voluntary confession.

After being detained by the TID of the Sri Lankan police on March 7 this year, Tissainayagam was held without charge or explanation for more than 150 days. It is alleged that Tissainayagam, the editor of an online newspaper, OutreachSL.com, made a voluntary confession during this time.

However, Tissainayagam was reportedly subjected to duress and denied private access to lawyers. Court hearings during this period were postponed arbitrarily. The Supreme Court denied Tissainayagam’s lawyers a fundamental rights petition for interim relief, submitted on the grounds of arbitrary arrest, torture, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and a denial of equality of protection under law.

Indictments against Tissainayagam and his two colleagues, N. Jesiharan and his partner Valarmathi, were filed before the High Court of Colombo on August 25. The three were charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), a draconian law introduced in 1979 as an ostensibly temporary measure.

The IFJ and other international press freedom organisations are extremely concerned for the safety and welfare of the three. Tissainayagam and Jesiharan, the owner of E-Kwality Printers, were moved from a remand prison to the notoriously dangerous Magazine Prison in Colombo on November 17, according to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate.

The continuation of the trial against Tissainayagam has reportedly been postponed until December 18.

The IFJ joins the FMM in calling for fair judicial process to be applied to all aspects of the continuation of Tissainayagam’s trial, including the procurement of his safety and protection in Magazine Prison.

Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Wins Order to Silence Media House

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned about restrictions on reporting of defence matters in Sri Lanka after a court prohibited all Leader Publications newspapers publishing any information referring to the Defence Secretary until December 18.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, a magistrate granted the ex-parte injunction application by Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on December 5. Rajapaksa accuses the Sunday Leader newspaper of publishing articles which allegedly defamed him.

In the national Parliament, United National Party parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekara reportedly said the Defence Secretary’s actions were intended to prevent the publication of a Sunday Leader exposé on the assassination of General Janaka Perera in a suicide attack in October.

“This is against the right of expression. This violates the fundamental right of expression enshrined in the Constitution,” Jayasekara told the Parliament.

Rajapaksa has had several confrontations with the media in Sri Lanka in 2008. After a peaceful demonstration in Colombo on May 27 to protest a violent attack on defence writer Keith Noyahr, Rajapaksa threatened the President and Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, Sanath Balasooriya and Poddala Jayantha, saying the Government would not offer them safety or protection if they continued to advocate for press freedom in Sri Lanka.

“The two-week gag on Leader Publications is a setback for press freedom and further stifles independent media in Sri Lanka,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The court hearing will resume on December 18, when Leader Publications will defend the publication of the allegedly defamatory material.

The IFJ joins the FMM in raising concerns about the Defence Secretary’s efforts to restrict reporting on defence matters and welcomes the move by some Members of Parliament to open dialogue on the public record to challenge the Government’s prevailing antagonism toward press freedom in Sri Lanka.

Threats Increase Concerns for Detained Media Worker and Family in Sri Lanka – IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) holds grave fears for the safety of detained Tamil media worker N. Jesiharan and his family in Sri Lanka after the family received threats and demands for ransom in return for Jesiharan’s safety while in detention.

The IFJ appeals to Sri Lanka’s Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management, Mahinda Samarasinghe, to honour a commitment he made to assure Jesiharan of protection while in custody.

Jesiharan is currently on trial on charges laid under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Jesiharan’s family in a remote village in the volatile Batticoloa District, in Sri Lanka’s east, reported receiving three threatening phone calls on November 25 and 26. The caller demanded a ransom of Rs100,000 (about $US920) to keep Jesiharan alive, the FMM reports.

The family lodged a complaint with the Kalavanchikudi police station. However, the duty police officer told the FMM the police could not take action because the caller’s number could not be identified.

Jesiharan, the owner of E-Kwality Printers, and his partner Valarmathi were detained by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lankan police in March, along with senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam.

After being held for more than 150 days without charge, all three were indicted on August 25 under the PTA, and are now on trial. The charges refer to the content of Tissainayagam’s journalistic work.

Jesiharan and Tissainayagam were unexpectedly moved from a remand prison to the notoriously violent Magazine Prison in Colombo following a visit from Samarasinghe on November 17. Samarasinghe had promised to improve their conditions of detention.

After local and international press freedom groups expressed extreme concern about the move, two representatives from the Human Rights and Disaster Management Ministry reportedly visited the two men in prison and confirmed that they were not being held with other prisoners.

“The threats made to Jesiharan’s family make it even more imperative that Sri Lanka’s Government and authorities fulfill their responsibility to ensure no harm comes to Jesiharan, Valarmathi and Tissainayagam, nor to their families” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The IFJ joins the FMM in calling on Minister Samarasinghe to increase security for all three, and to investigate fully the threats against Jesiharan’s family and to ensure the perpetrator of the threats is brought to justice.

Journalist Released from Detention in Sri Lanka – IFJ

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is relieved to report the release from detention of A.R. Vanna Loshan by Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) on November 22.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, the TID handed Loshan over to his parents after eight days in detention without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The TID reportedly gave no reason for Loshan’s detention or release. 

Loshan, the general manager Vettri FM radio station, has worked as a radio journalist for almost 10 years and took up his post at the Tamil-language station in early 2008.

“The release of A.R. Vanna Loshan provides a glimmer of hope for Sri Lanka’s independent media that the draconian PTA and Emergency Regulations will not be used systemically in an effort to silence critics,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“The IFJ stands by its principles that freedom of expression is a universally recognised human right, and anti-terror laws must not be wielded as a weapon to quash that right.”

Loshan’s release is welcome news to Sri Lanka’s media and press freedom community, who continue to fight for the unconditional release of senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainyagam and printing press owners N. Jesiharan and his partner Valamarthi.

On March 7 and 8, TID officials arrested Tissainayagam, Jesiharan and Valarmathi under the PTA. The three were held without charge for more than five months until formal indictments under the PTA were issued in August.

Court proceedings against the three are currently under way.

The IFJ joins the FMM and local organisations in acknowledging international advocacy for the release of Loshan and in urging continued concerted action to demand that the rights of Tissainayagam and his colleagues be upheld, including their right to justice and protection while in custody.

Radio Manager Detained Under Draconian Terror Law in Sri Lanka

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed that Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Investigation Division has again used the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to detain another Tamil journalist without charge.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, a group of 13 people identifying themselves as police officials arrested Vettri FM Radio’s general manager, A.R. Vanna Loshan, at his home late on November 14.

Loshan, who has worked as a radio journalist for almost 10 years and took up his post at the Tamil-language radio station in early 2008, is being detained at the TID detention centre in Colombo.

“A.R. Vanna Loshan is the third media worker to be detained under the alarmingly vague and oppressive PTA for matters related to his work as a journalist,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

On March 7 and 8, TID officials arrested senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam and printing press owner N. Jesiharan and his partner Valarmathi applying the PTA.  

The three were held without charge for more than five months until formal indictments under the PTA were issued in August. Court proceedings against the three are currently under way.

“The Government’s use of draconian legislation against the media in the name of national security is a clear effort to undermine press freedom and silence voices of dissent in Sri Lanka,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

“The IFJ calls on authorities in Sri Lanka to desist from using the PTA against the media, and to recognise that the questionable application of the PTA is further diminishing Sri Lanka’s standing in the international community.”

The IFJ joins the five leading media organisations in Sri Lanka, the FMM, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Union (FMETU) – all IFJ affiliates – and the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF) and the Sri Lankan Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA), in calling on the Government to bring Loshan before the courts immediately or release him without delay.