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Filmmakers accused of promoting terrorism

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an FMM press release:

Filmmakers accused for "new terrorism"

The Free Media Movement (FMM) is disturbed by recent reports of unwarranted pressure on Sri Lankan filmmakers producing films on the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. An article published in an English language daily on 14 September 2005 indicated that films by prominent directors such as Asoka Handagama, Prasanna Vithanage, Sudath Mahaadivulwewa and Vimukthi Jayasundara have been labelled "new terrorism" and "foreign funded cinema" in statements attributed to a military spokesperson.

Articles written by military and political leaders criticizing anti-war films as propaganda for separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have started to appear in mainstream newspapers.

In a meeting between two of the filmmakers and high military officials that took place subsequent to the publication of these articles, where they were asked whether they were willing to make films for military propaganda, the filmmakers were told that if war breaks out again they will face repercussions.

All four of them have won international awards and wide acclaim for their films on the ongoing war in Sri Lanka.

FMM wishes to underscore the importance of upholding the cultural rights and the freedom of expression of artists and filmmakers in Sri Lanka.

Artistic interpretation is an inviolable right of all artists and media personnel and is linked to freedom of expression.

FMM strongly upholds the right of artistic interpretation and commends the work of artists who explore the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka through arts and culture. The interests of national security cannot cloud basic human rights. Speaking of the productions of filmmakers as a "premeditated act against the police and armed forces" and the subsequent verbal threats to the security personnel of these directors is cause for serious concern. Filmmakers such as Vimukti Jayasundara now face calls to leave the country and others have also faced serious problems.

Sri Lanka celebrates a rich culture of cinema. The Supreme Court has also in the past upheld the right of filmmakers to produce films that critically explore the ethnic conflict. It is vital that avenues for such cultural productions are strengthened and expanded in order to promote democracy and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

We strongly call upon all parties to respect freedom of expression, including the right to creative expression and media by artists and filmmakers. We urge the government and security forces to uphold these rights.

Sunanda Deshapriya
Spokesperson, FMM

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