Monthly Archives: August 2011

Sri Lanka: NfR condemns Assault on Navanthurai civilians by security forces

Press release/ 26 August 2011

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders   living outside the country condemns the brutal assault on civilians by the officers of Navanthurai Army Detachment, in the Jaffna district. The assault took place on the night of 22nd August 2011. At least 18 of the arrested civilians have been tortured badly and had to be hospitalized. Photographic evidence published by reliable online media sources indicates  that many of them having plastered arms and legs.

According to reliable sources,

”At around 1.15 am on 23rd August, the army entered Navanthurai and detained between 100 – 120 young men from the village.  According to eye witnesses including two Catholic nuns, between 6-12 Army officers entered each house in the village and dragged out men who were sleeping with their families and children. The men were brutally and indiscriminately beaten with rifle butts and iron rods and dragged along the road towards the Army detachment located around 300 meters from the village. Women and children were also beaten in the attack.”

The civilians who were assaulted were denied medical treatment for up to 8 hours and only after judicial intervention they were allowed to obtain medical treatment.

Both these actions are grave violations of law.

It should be noted that that this brutal attack comes in the wake of international outcry against the Sri Lankan Security forces for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated against   Tamil civilians during the last phase of the war.

We are also deeply dismayed at the Sinhala and English language mainstream media that failed to report and investigate this story. It is only the Tamil language press and online media that have covered this act of brutality.

The arrest of civilians in the middle of the night took place after a mass protest against the Navanthurai Army Detachment, which according the people, were giving protection to the five intrudes in to the village when they were chased away by the villagers. People in the area believed those intruders were so called Grease devils (Grease Yakkas/Grease pootham) that attack women.

The phenomenon   of Grease devils has created uproar in the rural North and East where Muslims and Tamils predominantly live. Opposition politicians have blamed the Government for not preventing recurrent incidents of unknown intrudes trying to harass and harm women of Tamil and Muslim communities. Some have even blamed the government for creating this fear psychosis in order to further militarise the North and East.

The brutality of the Sri Lankan Armed forces once again raises the issue of Sinhala supremacist tendencies and anti Tamil sentiments within the Security Forces. In the past there have been violent protests against security forces in various parts of the country. However, in none of those instances the security forces deployed this kind of mass arrests and brutal assaults. It is clear that military establishment wanted to convey a very clear massage to the Tamils in Sri Lanka that they are a subjugated community.

NfR vehemently condemns the attacks on Tamil civilians by the Security forces.

NfR calls upon national and international human rights organisations to initiate an investigation in to this incident. It is very difficult to expect the Government of   Sri Lanka to launch an impartial investigation that would bring the culprits to book given the culture of impunity, which has become the norm in Sri Lanka.

Issued by

Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka



NfR expresses solidarity with FMM led media protest in Jaffna

NfR release /15.08.2011

Group of 40 journalists from Colombo left for Jaffna this morning (15th Aug) to express their solidarity with embattled journalist community in  Jaffna.

The Free Media Movement led group includes number of media organisations as well as few human rights activists. According to FFM convenor Sunil Jayasekara they expect to  the  news editor, Mr Gnanasundaram Kuganathanhas of Uthayan daily in Jaffna hospital, who is recovering form fatal assault on him by unidentified gang on 29th July.  The journalists will jointly demand that culprits of this heinous crime should be brought to book immediately and all assaults on media and journalists in Jaffna should be investigated in an open and transparent manner . Journalists in Jaffna experienced the worst crimes of media suppression during the war and all such incidents have been covered up by authorities on various pretexts.

Another FMM ex-co member Udaya Kalupathirana told NfR that this is a historic occasion in strengthening solidarity and enhancing mutual understanding between journalists working in Jaffna and Colombo and they hope that their right to protest and association will be respected by the state security forces in Jaffna.  Jaffna has not seen any such demonstrations for a long time and if the demonstration will be able go ahead planned it will defiantly expand the democratic space in Northern peninsula.

NfR expresses its solidarity with this democratic action and expect the government to respect the right to peaceful protest of people in Sri Lanka.

NfR steering committee

Sri Lanka: Media owner threatened, Editor severely assaulted, correspondents harassed!

Press release/ 03 August 2011

Sri Lanka: Media owner threatened, Editor severely assaulted, correspondents harassed!

Already battered Freedom of expression and media rights took yet another ugly turn last month in Sri Lanka. A   leading news paper owner was threatened by the President, the news editor of the largest circulating Tamil daily in Jaffna was assaulted and critically injured by the military backed para military gang and two correspondents of  popular TV news channel was  harassed by supports of a notoriously anti media Minister.

The attacks on journalists and threats continue in Sri Lanka violating the people’s fundamental right to freedom of information.  Despite condemnation by international media rights organizations and human rights organizations, the current regime has been systematically targeting independent journalism and willing to deploy gangs and para military groups to intimidate, harass assault and kill.

According to Sunday Leader, on 19 July 2011 President Mahinda Rajapaksha had called the chairman of The Sunday Leader, Lal Wickrematunge and yelled at him. The president threatened the chairman by saying, “You are writing lies, outrageous lies! You can attack me politically, but if you attack me personally, I will know how to attack you personally too.”

The reason for the threatening phone call was an exposure by the Sunday Leader that China had given the president and his son, parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksha, US dollars  9 million  to be used “at their discretion” . Within days after the threatening telephone call, posters appeared around the newspaper office with slogans, “Do not lie!” and “The gods will punish you”

The presidential office has not denied the story or the threatening phone call even two weeks after it was reported in the media. The newspaper says it stands by the story.

Reliable sources told NfR that the President had even mentioned the killing of the founding editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge in a threatening voice when he called Mr. Lal Wickrematunge. Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed on 08 January 2009 and GOSL has not yet arrested the culprits.

On 6 July 2011, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, the news editor of the leading Tamil newspaper in Jaffna, the Uthayan was attacked with iron rods by a motorcycle riding gang.   He was admitted to intensive care unit of the Jaffna general hospital in   critical condition. The Uthayan Tamil daily newspaper has been an important independent news source for the past several decades in the Northern Province. The paper survived several attacks and various kinds of intimidation by the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil militant groups during the civil war and the aftermath.

Two correspondents of the popular TV channel Sirasa (MTV network) was attacked in Kiribathgoda on 24 July. Although they have complained to the Kiribathgoda police no action has been taken to at least to recover their cassettes by the police.

All three media organisations, the Leader publications, the Uthayan publications and MTV network have faced repeated assaults, threats and intimidations in recent times. All three institutions have been set on fire. The Sunday Leader lost its editor while Uthayan news paper lost six of its staff members including journalists. Both institutions were closed using emergency powers. Sirasa /MTV network has been the most threatened and intimidated media institution in Sri Lanka. In this context NfR is of the opinion that threats and intimidations against these institutions are prelude to suppress all kinds of dissenting voices.

NfR is deeply dismayed by the latest attacks, assaults and intimidation and calls for continuous campaign by the international community to make the GOSL accountable.

Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Two foreign journalists threatened, harassed and robbed in Jaffna

Press release/ 24 July 2011

Sri Lanka: Two foreign journalists threatened, harassed and robbed in Jaffna
NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders   living outside the country is shocked and dismayed that despite claims that  freedom and democratic rights are re-established in the  form ER war zones, recently two foreign journalists were threatened, harassed and robbed in Jaffna the capitol of the northern province.
Two under cover journalists  from the Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) were doing a assignment in Jaffna when, according to RNW they were ‘spied on and reported to the police, who later that night arrived at the hotel for a midnight interrogation. Ten police officers, including the Chief of Police, scared the team into leaving the region. The following morning, on their way back to the well trodden tourist path, they were robbed and attacked at gunpoint by a gang in a white van’
Radio Netherlands has identified the journalists as Olivia and Philip to protect their identity and has not given the exert date of the incident. In the light of past experiences and persisting impunity regarding human rights violations NfR does not except any independent inquiry that will lead to justice, identification and punishment of perpetrators or any affirmation of media freedom in Sri Lanka in relation to this case.
The Government of Sri Lanka keeps a strict control of the written and spoken word in and on  the former theatre of war. Even after more than 26 months have passed since so-called end of the war not a single independent journalist has been allowed to visit the final battle fields. Investigative stories on the final   phase of war from the point of view of victims are non existent. Local journalists do not dare to do any undercover investigative stories on the topic because of their well founded fear of deadly reprisals. This incident shows the fear of ruling regime for the truth and AFFIRMS that they will go any length to stop independent journalism.
The Freedom of expression is a corner stone of democracy andd an essential factor for defending, strengthening and promoting all human rights. Post war Sri Lanka has failed to see the government re-establish the rights to the Freedom of expression of the Sri Lankan people. THE media in Sri Lanka is either politically controlled or has media persons working under today.
NfR call upon all International human rights organisations to take note of this situation and include re-establishing freedom of expression as one of the main pre conditions in their entire advocacy for the promotion and protection of human rights in Sri Lanka.
Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka:Censorship on the Broadcast of Cricket Matches

Press release/ 06 July 2011

Sri Lanka: Censorship on  the  Broadcast of Cricket Matches

It was announced recently that the Cabinet has taken a decision  to permit only  the State controlled media to broadcast  the international cricket matches in which the  Sri Lanka cricket team would  be participating.  The NfR views this   move as an indirect  censorship  imposed on the electronic media in Sri Lanka.   This means that there will  no longer  be  any open bidding for sports broadcasting rights in Sri Lanka.

Cricket is the most popular sport in the country and attracts a larger audience to watch live broadcasts of matches played by the Sri Lanka team than to any other sport.   The  decision to provide exclusive rights on  broadcasting  cricket matches to state controlled broadcasting channels is another blow to media freedom.  It is well know that  the electronic mediate of the  State   is the most bias media in the country and is a vehicle for  carrying the government’s  political propaganda as news and views.   This decision to create a State monopoly in cricket broadcasting deprives competitive edge for private broadcasters and  bolsters  political control of sports news in the country.

The most absurd part of  this Cabinet decision is that it  allows sports channels also the right to broadcast  international cricket matches.  There is only one sports channel in the country  which is controlled by one of the President’s sons, Yoshitha Rajapakse.  It is called  the Carlton Sports Network , named after  the President’s family  residence in the South which has this name.  This TV Channel  was launched in March 2011 after obtaining a TV channel belonging  to a  State controlled broadcaster.  This is another step towards  the family rule  of the  the country by the  Rajapakse clan.   .

NfR expresses its concern  over  this  undemocratic decision and urges  the government to reverse this decision.

Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka