(FMM/IFEX) – According to Prajathanthra – Foundation for Freedom of Expression, in two recent instances journalists have been harassed and threatened, in open violation of freedom of the press and the right to free expression. On 29 November 1997, three journalists of the Tamil language newspaper “Virakesari” were harassed, threatened, and humiliated and their photographic […]
(FMM/IFEX) – According to Prajathanthra – Foundation for Freedom
of Expression, in two recent instances journalists have been
harassed and threatened, in open violation of freedom of the
press and the right to free expression.
On 29 November 1997, three journalists of the Tamil language
newspaper “Virakesari” were harassed, threatened, and humiliated
and their photographic record of events destroyed by the police.
This incident took place when two reporters, Sri Gajan and M.
Dunstan, and photographer S. Surendran were covering the transfer
of detainees from the Welikada Prison in Colombo to another
place of detention at Kalutara. The 223 detainees were those held
under the Prevention of Terrorism Act who had launched a hunger
strike at the Welikade Prison.
Police officers, particularly an Officer-in-Charge of a police
station, objected to photographs taken of the detainees being
brought to vehicles to be transferred, although this took place
outside the prison premises, and was done in full view of the
public. The police also threatened journalists who had spoken to
some of the detainees family members who were there at the time.
The Officer-in-Charge demanded the camera from the photographer,
and when it was refused, forcibly took it, removed the roll of
film and exposed it.
In another incident, police recently raided the Colombo hotel
room of Indian journalist, Sudha Ramachandran, of the “Deccan
Herald” of India, forcibly seized photographs taken by her and
questioned her for several hours about alleged connections with
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Ramachandran is a
foreign journalist who had been duly accredited by the Department
of Information and the Foreign Ministry, and had obtained
clearance from the Ministry of Defence to travel to the Jaffna
Peninsula in the North, which is under military control, and
carry out her journalistic work there. The police did return the
seized photographs, but questioned her about alleged connections
with the LTTE. She was afraid for her safety.
According to Prajathanthra, the situation is further aggravated
by the fact that the journalists who have been harassed and
threatened are all Tamil-speaking persons, both from Sri Lanka
and India. It is indicative of the belief among some sections of
the security forces and the police that all Tamil-speaking people
are supporters of the LTTE.
Send appeals to the Miniser for Media:
Media to ensure that proper inquiries are conducted into these
incidents and suitable action taken against those involved to
prevent such action in the future.
Mr. Mangala Samaraweera
Minister for Media
Fax: +94 1 594536
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.