Monthly Archives: January 2011

Popular Independent website office set on fire in Colombo

NFR Action Alert 2011/01/31

http://www.lankaenews.com office located in Daham Mawatha, Malabe, Sri Lanka has been set on fire around 2.00 am, 31 January 2011. a short news item posted on the site says that ” About an hour ago, the LankaeNews office premises was set on fire. At about 2.00 am today, a group of unknown personnels had broken into the premises and set it on fire. By now everything that was inside the building has been destroyed.”

NfR sources in Colombo confirmed   that office building is on fire and no one form the staff has been able to reach the office as it could be dangerous.

Lanka  e News is a leading Sinhala language website which has come under various threats and attacks since the presidential election January 2010 for its support for  common opposition candidate former Army commander Sarath Fonseka.

It’s editor Sandaruewan Senadeera had to leave the country for his safety after continuous threats to his life but the website was run form Colombo by a dedicated group of  journalists.

Some of the journalists working for the web site too have received various threats in recent times. Prageeth Eknaligoda, the journalists and cartoonist who  disappeared a one year ago on 24th January 2010 was a freelancer with the web site.

Siyatha, an independent TV and radio station which was located in a high security area in Colombo was set on fire on 30th July 2010  around 1.30 am causing millions of rupees of damage to the net work. According to the owners a 12 member gang entered the office and set it on fire. So far no arrests have been made and no investigation report has been made public.

NFR condemns this dastardly act as a yet another  crime against media freedom in Sri Lanka and hold the Government of  Sri Lanka responsible until the perpetrators are brought to the book.

Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA

NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com
visit our site: http://nfrsrilanka.blogspot.com/

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Sri Lanka: Websites that criticise the Government to be dealt with

Press release/ 18 January 2011

The attention of NfR  has been drawn to a conversation that  is  reported to have taken place  at a breakfast meeting  hosted by President Mahinda Rajapakse for senior media personnel in Colombo on the 13th of January, 2011.

According to media reports the President has told those who had attended the meeting  that  a separate unit is investigating the  activities of certain websites with a view to  ‘take action’   against them.

(http://thenewsmaster.blogspot.com/2011/01/silumina-editor-suggests-president-to.html)

The President’s remark was reportedly in response to  a suggestion by the Editor of the Silumina Newspaper Mr Karunadasa Sooriyarachchi.   Mr Sooriyarachchi is reported to have pointed out to the President that there are websites “attacking the Government,  the  Country, the President’s family and sometimes his own Institution’  and had  asked,  “Why measures should not be taken against  those websites”.  Following the President’s response,  the  Silumina, a State controlled Sinhala weekly, carried a lead story last week titled   “Some websites are a threat to national security”.

The President is also reported to have said that the biggest challenge he faces is the media.  In a democracy,  media is considered to be  an asset  and not a challenge.  Assets are to be cherished  and challenges are to be surmounted.  The very foundation of democracy hinges on the right to free speech. The publication of news items and articles both favourable and critical of  the government, are very much part and parcel of that freedom.

It may be recalled that many government controlled media outlets have on earlier occasions too, labeled some journalists as “traitors”.  These  malicious  allegations resulted in many  journalists being abducted, assaulted, jailed or  murdered as in the case  of  the editor of the Sunday Leader,  Lasantha Wickrematunga.

It is also disconcerting to note that the  President is reported to have  chosen to malign the Tamil newspapers by  alleging  that “Tamil newspapers are still partial to the LTTE and  are  supportive of the LTTE sympathizers and their actions”.  If this report of the President’s allegation is true, then the free hand given to the Sinhala and other media outlets which continue to publish mischievous news items  against those whom they see as traitors, needs to be questioned.    In fact, to build a united Sri Lanka all media institutions should  be treated equally. NfR is deeply concerned of the President’s remarks in this regard

With the conventional print and electronic media in Sri  Lanka shackled by various coercive methods, both legal and illegal,  websites provide an alternative  space  for  reporting news, critical of the government or otherwise, and is an essential adjunct to free speech in Sri Lanka.

The free exchange of ideas on the internet,  is given much importance  in many countries other than  in the most repressive of regimes  such as China and Iran. It is a matter of concern that Sri Lanka too, is now  heading  in that direction.

Issued by

Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

 

C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA                      NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com

visit our site: http://nfrsrilanka.blogspot.com/

 

Sri Lanka: Assault on Senior Journalist in Ampara District

Press release/ 06 January 2011

NfR reports with indignation the assault on Mr. P.M.M.A.Cader (53) , a senior multi-lingual journalist working in the Ampara District in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. He is the Provincial Correspondent for Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited and also works for some other Tamil language media as well. Following this attack he is under treatment at the Maruthamunai Hospital in Kalmunai, for dizziness and headache.

According to NfR sources in the district, Mr. Cadar had been assaulted by a member of the Kalmunai Municipal Council on 04th January 2011 while he was on his way to Murathamunai to report on the distribution of food to flood victims of the area. The politician who is alleged to have assaulted him belongs to the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. He had demanded that his version on the distribution of goods as flood relief should be reported.

The assault on Mr. Cader was a sequel to his declining to accede to this demand by this politician. Although Mr. Cader had made a prompt complaint at the Kalmunai Police Station, the politician concerned has neither been arrested or questioned so far.

This incidence confirms that the culture of impunity has pervaded into all levels of governance in Sri Lanka. Even at local level, ruling party politicians wield unhindered power to intimidate, threaten and assault journalists, public officials and their political opponents without any fear of having to face any legal consequences. Anyone who does not fall in line with the wishes of politicians of the ruling power has to invariably face all kinds of harassment and even other more serious consequences.

The assault on Mr. Cader is also another example of the anti- media culture prevailing among politicians of the ruling party in Sri Lanka today. NfR is of the view that unless clear signals are sent from the centre on the rights of Provincial correspondents to report on the events in the Provinces independently, this kind of intimidations and threats to media personnel will continue unabated. NfR demands that the Police authorities in Kalmunai to take immediate steps to investigate into this incident and bring the culprits to book. Such an action will also help to re-assure the public that the Police will act independently in the maintenance of law and order in the country.

Issued by Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Steering committee : Iqbal MCM ( The Netherlands),Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA

NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com visit our site: http://nfrsrilanka.blogspot.com/

The re-immergence of fear psychosis the Jaffna District

Press release/ 03.01.2011 Sri Lanka:

NfR expresses its serious concern about the deterioration of the law and order situation in the Northern Districts of Sri Lanka. The series of killings that have taken place during the last few weeks in the Jaffna Peninsula raises the question whether death squads have been reactivated in the Jaffna Peninsula. The latest in the series of killings, is the cold blooded murder of 28 year old Ketheeswaran Thevarajah of Jaffna on 31st December 2010. This is the fifth such killing that has taken place in Jaffna within last two weeks. None of these killings have been seriously investigated or resolved, so far.

According to reports appearing in the news media Thevarajah, who was a postal worker in Vadamaraadchi, Jaffna, had been shot by armed men who entered the house where he was staying that night. He had later succumbed to the gun shot injuries.

There has been no other apparent reason for this killing him of a civic conscious activist. Some news media has reported that the killers had asked him to open his page on the face book and shot him at point blank range. Mr. Thevarajah, had posted photographs on his face book on the environmental damage caused by sand excavation in his village. According to news reports, he had provided reports to Jaffna media on the same issue. Looking at this matter in that context, it is obvious that this killing is also another in the series of killings to restrict the ‘freedom of expression’ in Sri Lanka.

Excavation of sand illegally from sand dunes in the Jaffna district by politically powerful persons, had become a public issue recently. A few months ago there had been public protests over this matter. People alleged that a pro-government para military force of a political party is responsible for the illegal excavation of sand in the area.

Whatever the reason may be, it is clear that the killers were from an organized gang and were able to get away without any problems, after the shooting.

The killing of Mr. Thevarajah, taken together with the other recent murders in that region, raises the question whether the much feared death squads are being reactivated in Jaffna to stifle dissenting civil voices and tightening the governments control of the population of that area. Putting the blame on unknown persons as being responsible for such incidents cannot be accepted taking into consideration the fact that the Jaffna Peninsular is strictly under the control of the military.

It appears that Jaffna is already engulfed in an evolving fear psychosis similar to what was in vogue during the infamous ‘period of terror’ (the beeshana samaya) in the South from about the middle of 1985 to 1995, when thousands Sinhala youth were abducted, killed or had disappeared under identical circumstances. This raises the second question, whether the creation of a fear psychosis has become the government’s strategy to keep the Tamil people under tight political control?

NfR would like to emphasize that such a strategy is bound to fail. We urge the government of Sri Lanka which has the Northern and Eastern Provinces firmly under its control, to take immediate steps to reassure the safety and security of the people living in those areas and restore the rule of law.

Issued by Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Steering committee : Iqbal MCM ( The Netherlands),Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA 

NfR.SriLanka@gmail.com