Category Archives: Features

Sri Lanka: State security forces obstruct peaceful assembly in Jaffna ; students and journalists assaulted and arrested

 

Press release/ 31 Nov 2012

  NfR Sri Lanka, a net work of journalists and human rights defenders, dismayed and shocked that once again the Government of Sri Lanka has unleashed state terror on students and journalists in Jaffna in flagrant violation of peoples right to peaceful assembly, an universal right enjoyed by people in the democratic world. This is an assault on freedom of expression rights as well.

 This brutal assault took place on 27th Nov 2012 in Jaffna when University students led remembrance was being held. Number of students was injured as a result, editor of the Jaffna based best selling news paper Uthayan was manhandled by the military and photographers were forced to delete the pictures of military and police brutality. Among the journalists assaulted are staff of another Jaffna based newspaper, Valampuri and students of the journalism training centre, Jaffna. Continue reading

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Impeachment motion: Attempt to wrest complete control and consolidate all power within the family

Press release/ 07 Nov 2012

 Networking for Rights, a net work of journalists and human rights defenders  considers the Sri Lanka governments move to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, as a flagrant expression of political interference in the judicial system and a  final step towards destroying the flicker of democracy that still remains in the country.

  This is not an issue about an individual but rather about the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

 If the Chief Justice must be impeached, then her errors and omissions should be investigated through a well defined process. There must be public debate before the government rushes to impeach her; simply because the Executive is displeased with the manner she interprets the law. Continue reading

Sri Lanka: Government using ‘Hidden Agenda Theory’ to suppress legitimated demands of the University Community

In Sri Lanka the universities have remained closed since August 21, this year and university staff has been on strike since July. The point of contention is a demand for a 20% pay hike, improved facilities and more government spending (6% of the GDP) on education. The demands of the Federation for University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) in July this year and has failed to yield any satisfactory result so far. Even in this crisis the government is accusing the strikers of having “hidden political agenda” and the Minister of Higher Education, S B Dissanayake has ordered all universities except the medical faculties closed. University staff and student who protested the move has been tear gassed. Continue reading

Sri Lanka: Internet freedom further restricted by imposing registration fees

Press release/ 20 July 2012

 The NfR condemns the recent actions taken by the Ministry of Mass Media and Communication in Sri Lanka to curtail the dissemination of ideas and information through websites, imposing registration fees, including the blocking of certain websites, raids on the office of two websites and the arrest and detention of staff at the office.

 In November 2011, the government blocked 5 websites and asked all those websites carrying any content relating to Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka, uploading from Sri Lanka or abroad to apply for ‘accreditation’. Following this, many websites did in fact seek and obtain the said ‘accreditation’.

 On 11 July 2012, Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella the Minister of Mass Media and Communication, proposed to the Cabinet that the Press Council law be amended to make provision for the registration of newscasting websites. The Press Council (Act No. 5 of 1973) was reintroduced to Sri Lanka in June 2009, in the face of many protests from media freedom groups in Sri Lanka and abroad, who pointed to the fact that nothing about its arbitrary nature had changed in the years when it had been held in abeyance.

 According to the Cabinet press release that followed, it was announced that a first off registration fee of Rs. 100,000 would be levied from each website, and that there would be a 50,000 rupee annual fee on all news casting websites including those that had registered in January 2012. There is no registration fee for any  print media in Sri Lanka.

 The Cabinet press release stated that the main objective of this amendment was ‘to ensure that the contents of the websites do no harm to defenseless individuals’. Minister Rambukwella went on record saying that this step was necessary ‘ to maintain dignity and decorum in the media’.

 It is clear that without a clear definition of what constitutes a ‘news casting’ website this amendment and the regulation of websites imposed by the process of paid registration could become a tool for silencing democratic dissent and restricting the freedom of opinion and expression which is guaranteed by the Sri Lankan constitution as well as by international human rights law. In an environment in which repression of media freedom, intimidation and attacks of journalists and media activists and ‘hate’ campaigns against media freedom organizations have resulted in an exodus of journalists and media persons from the country, this new step can only be seen as a further erosion of media freedom and the right to democratic dissent in Sri Lanka.

 NfR strongly opposes all attempts to suppress people’s right to opinion, information and expression in order to control abuse of the internet and reiterate that the Sri Lankan Penal Code contains sufficient laws to control defamation if so required.

  NfR maintains its position that working with the media community to develop tools and mechanisms of self-regulation guided by universal principles of media ethics remains the only acceptable path to prevent any abuse of media freedom.

 

 

Sri Lanka: State media continues its attack the press freedom watch dog

Sri Lankan state media which are directly controlled by the president’s office continue to slander the press freedom watch dog, the Free Media Movement and its leading activists.

In a response to FMM statement to prove state media allegation that FMM is working with the Tamil National Alliance state media has unleashed another round of false allegations. State media has miserably failed to prove any of its allegations but their hate campaign gets huge state media coverage.

It is clear that GOSL is trying to salience the FMM by these dangerous allegations.

 Here we produce three such articles published by the sate media in Sri Lanka. This campaign intends to create a fear- psychosis among the press freedom community in the country

NfR calls upon all national and international democratic forces express their solidarity with the Free Media Movement and raise the concerns’ with the Government of Sri Lanka

Dinamina: Page 1: 06 Feb 2012

Photographs from the Free Media Movement in exhibition against the Motherland organized by LTTE supporters in London

 Byline: Vijayani Edirisinghe

The Free Media Movement has sent photographs to an exhibition against this country, organized by two LTTE supporter groups. The exhibition was organized by the Global Tamil Forum and the British Tamil Forum at the premises of the British Parliament. In this exhibition, there are photographs that misinterpret even actions carried out by the security forces of our country with good intentions.

 Among the photographs sent to this exhibition by the Free Media Movement is a photograph of disappeared journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda. This is the same photograph that was displayed at the demonstration of the Free Media Movement held at Lipton Circus a few days ago. The photograph is displayed with the caption Genocide.

 Dinamina: Page 1: 07 Feb 2012

We are ready to go to Geneva: the Free Media Movement

 Mr. Sunil Jayasekera, the Convenor of the Free Media movement, says that the Free Media Movement has no hesitation about joining hands with any mass organization or political party that works within the democratic framework to defend media freedom in this country, in the past or present.

 This fact has been revealed in the Press Release issued to refute the article appearing in the Dinamina of February 3 which had stated that the Free Media Movement is engaged in a conspiracy with the TNA. The statement, bearing Sunil Jayasekera’s signature, also says that if the need arises they will not hesitate to go before not only the Human Rights Council but any international body of which Sri Lanka is a member to state their cause. The Dinamina article had stated that 6 members of the FMM had already left for Geneva together with some TNA  MPs to bring this country to disrepute at the Human Rights Council which is due to start on the 27th of this month.

http://www.dinamina.lk/2012/02/07/_art.asp?fn=n1202079

 Dinamina Editorial

08 Feb 2012

 To the Convenor

It is clear that the Convenor of the Free Media Movement and several others of that Movement have lost their cool.mr. Sunil Jayasekera, who represents himself as the Convenor of the Free Media Movement, has sent a somewhat threatening letter, challenging us and our institution. Their rage and their challenge to us is due to the Dinamina exposing the alliance and the combined conspiracy between the Free Media Movement and the TNA. When the truth is revealed, any Convenor would get enraged. This has happened in history. It is happening today.

 There are several organizations in Sri Lanka which call themselves the ‘free media’ and which obstruct freedom and democracy in this country. The ulterior motive of these organizations is to place barriers in the way of progress and challenge the unitary nature of this country. Those organizations and individuals that support and encourage separatism and terrorism are their friends. It is against this background that the Free Media Movement allies with the TNA and obtains support from the Tamil diaspora.

 In his statement Mr. Sunil Jayasekera says that the  government is taking steps to suppress organizations such as the Free Media Movement and that this campaign of publishing untruths is related to that. There is no link between the government and the Dinamina. We do not have any need to publish untruths about an organization like the Free Media Movement. Nor do we accept that they are defending media freedom and democratic rights.

 Does taking a stand for democracy mean supporting the Tiger terrorists? Supporting separatism? Making false claims on behalf of human rights in Sri Lanka? We are forced to tell the Free Media Movement o seek answers to these questions before they take a stand on democracy. Does media freedom mean going on demonstrations against the government? Organizing pickets? Strengthening NGOs? Becoming their contractors? We are forced to tell the Free Media Movement o seek answers to these questions before they take a stand on media freedom.

 Nobody in this organization has taken a stand for freedom, peace or democracy in Sri Lanka. This is most clearly borne out by their behavior during the humanitarian operation.  The Free Media Movement and some other organizations were firmly on the side of the Tigers then. We can recall that they used many strategies to undermine the humanitarian operation. The Mahinda Rajapakse regime was successful in defeating all these efforts and destroying the LTTE and separatism. Organizations like the Free Media Movement and some powerful Western countries are not ready to accept the victory of the people and of the government. 

 Many who were part of the Free Media Movement left the country after the defeat of the LTTE. Most of those who fled the country of their own accord are enjoying a luxurious life in the cold countries of the West. They receive the money and other facilities they need from NGOs and from the governments of those countries. Being thus dependent on foreign aid, they continue to be critical of Sri Lanka. They aim criticisms at the President.  Their entire time is taken up by trying to do something or the other against Sri Lanka.

 Convenor Sunil Jayasekera, who says that there is no alliance and no conspiracy between the TNA and the Free Media Movement makes a very interesting statement elsewhere in the Release: the Free Media Movement has no hesitation about joining hands with any mass organization or political party that works within the democratic framework to defend media freedom in this country, in the past or present, and, if the need arises, we reiterate that we will not hesitate to go before not only the Human Rights Council but any international body of which Sri Lanka is a member to state our case. This statement by Mr. Sunil Jayasejkera, the Convenor of the Free Media Movement, is absolutely correct. These organizations have previously worked to support the LTTE. They have also made representations before international organizations. They have done innumerable despicable things against the country. There is a proverb that even if the mouth lies, the tongue does not. Mr. Sunil Jayasekera’s conscience tells him that what we have published in our newspaper is the truth. They will go ahead with their conspiracy with the TNA.

 The objective of several organizations who present themselves as media freedom organizations is to bring the government to disrepute  by whatever means possible. This is a very strong political hatred. The people will recognize the fraudsters whose actions are driven by this hatred.  On that day Sunil Jayasekera and all the so-called media freedom groups will not have anything left to say.

http://www.dinamina.lk/2012/02/08/_art.asp?fn=e120208

 NfR thanks XXXX  for  providing these translations.

 

 

Sri Lanka: Obstruction of the campaign against disappearances in Jaffna is an indication of the dangerous level of militarisation in Sri Lanka

Press release/ 18th January 2012

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, strongly condemns the obstruction of the protest campaign against the disappearances in Sri Lanka by security forces without any legal ground. This blatant violation of people’s democratic rights shows that in the so-called liberated North of Sri Lanka not the rule of law but the rule of the military prevails. This anti-democratic behaviour of the military personnel stationed in the Northern Province reinforces the recommendation of the LLRC for immediate demilitarisation and re-establishing the civil administration.

Today (Tuesday, 17th January 2012) a joint platform of various peoples’ organisations had organised a protest campaign in Jaffna against the ongoing disappearances and focussed on the disappearance of two human rights defenders, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and  Kugan Muruganandan, a month ago.

The Organization Collective against Abductions and Disappearance had coordinated this campaign. 17 political parties and organizations, including the Movement for Peoples’ Struggles, United Socialist Party, NSSP, Maoist Lanka Communist Party, Alternative Group of LSSP, Socialist Party, Socialist Organization, People’s March Organization, We Are Sri Lankans, People’s Lawyers Association, Lawyers Associations for Democracy, Students for Human Rights, Inter Company Employees’ Union, All Ceylon Telecom Employees’ Union and All Island Health Employees’ Union, were to take part in today’s protest campaign.

The members of those organisations who were travelling to Jaffna in a convoy of busses were harassed, checked and finally stopped at Pulliyankulam by the military acting on orders from the above.

According to the organisers of the campaign a special police unit first stopped their busses at Punnawa 4 km before Vavuniya and told them they are not permitted to proceed further as Murukandi Bridge had been exploded. Thereafter, they were searched for over one hour at Joseph Camp and the police headquarters 2 km and 1 km before Vavuniya respectively. After that, busses carrying the protesters were stopped at Thaandikulam in Vavuniya and again searched for three hours for the alleged reason that they had received information that bombs were transported in these busses. The busses were again stopped 5 km after Vavuniya and they were told that four bombs in a lorry ahead of them were being neutralized by the Army, hence, protesters could not be permitted to proceed further at the risk of their safety.

All these stories were concocted by higher military officials as a pretext to block the protest against the ongoing disappearances. This illustrates that the Sri Lankan Government is willing to go to any length to stop people getting organised to claim their human rights.
 
Meanwhile, “Thinakural Rest” hotel in Jaffna where the Organization Collective had planned to hold a media briefing was attacked by a mob of thugs at 1.30 pm on the same day and the property of the hotel and three vehicles parked nearby were damaged.

Government ministers were making fear mongering and hysteria creating statements in the last few weeks in order to discourage campaigns against previous and ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

The right to association and to free speech are inviolable fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of Sri Lanka. The duty of the state security forces is to protect those rights and not to trample them. In this case, it is evident that these democratic rights are not protected by either the Government of Sri Lanka or the state security forces. Furthermore, this development is an indication of tightening military control of people’s life in the Northern Province resulting in frightening people into silence in the context of a growing demand for an independent and credible investigation into human rights violations related to the last phase of the war.

NfR calls for urgent attention of national and international human rights organisations to respond to this dangerous trend and requests appropriate action be taken in solidarity for the victims of all human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka: GOSL should held responsible for the disappearance of two human rights defenders in Jaffna

Press release/ 16th January 2012

NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders (HRDs) expresses its deep concern over the disappearance of Mr. Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Mr. Kugan Muruganandan.  Even though more than five weeks have passed since disappearance there has been no information about them to date and all efforts to trace them have been of no avail.   They went missing from Jaffna on 9th December, 2011 while they were active in organizing a press conference to be held in Jaffna on 10th December, on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.   
They were both human rights defenders and leading members of the ‘We Are Sri Lankans’ (WESL). That is an organization working towards national harmony and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.  Mr. Weeraraj was a tireless HRD and ironically his focus has been the involuntary disappearances that have taken place during the last phase of the war. He played a courageous and inspiring role in setting up committees of Families of the Disappeared in all the districts in the North. He organized protest campaigns with families of the disappeared on number of occasions.  At the time of his disappearance he was the Jaffna Coordinator of the Movement for People’s Struggle (MPS) (Jana Aragala Wiyapaaraya). He was unlawfully arrested on number of occasions and beaten up by pro government thugs in the presence of police. He was abducted twice before, once by the military in uniform in the Killinochchi town and released after questioning. In the face of all these intimidations and obstacles he did not give up his human rights work.  In short, he was an emerging civil and political leader in the war torn Northern districts campaigning for  human rights. 

Mr. Kugan Muruganandan had been his close associate in all these human rights work of Mr. Weeraraj

Related incidents reported since their disappearance points towards the government’s culpability in this heinous crime. 

Close to midnight on the day of their disappearance, 9th December Mr. Weeraraj’s father received a number of threatening phone calls on his mobile phone. The callers threatened to kill Mr. Weeraraja and warned that “either you remove your son from Jaffna or we will do it for you”.

On 14th December, Mr. Muruganandan’s wife found the motor cycle bearing no. NP GT7852, in which Mr. Muruganandan and Mr. Weeraraj were last seen, parked inside the Atchchuveli Police Station. Until she inquired about this motor cycle the police didn’t inform her about the custody of this motor cycle. 

Next day, on 15th December, Cabinet Spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the media at a Cabinet briefing that ‘Mr. Weeraraj and Mr. Muruganandan have not disappeared, but are there’.

Even though a number of local and international organizations have called for an immediate and impartial investigation into the disappearance of two HRDs, the law enforcement agencies have failed to take any serious action on this matter.  

According to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on there are more than 5000 unresolved reported cases of involuntary disappearances in Sri Lanka. In addition local NGOs working on disappearances have reported that they have received around 5000 complaints of disappearances during the recent years.  The media has reported a dozen abductions by unidentified groups during the last few weeks. Politically motivated involuntary disappearances have been part of the Sri Lanka Government’s way of suppressing dissent for decades now.

The disappearance of the two human rights defenders, Weeraraj amd Kugan,    is not only a violation of their right to life but constitute a larger threat to the freedom of association and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.  Moreover this incident shows that there are forces within Sri Lanka that will not allow any genuine investigation into crimes against humanity that have taken place during the last phase of the war. 

In this context that NfR holds the government of Sri Lanka responsible for the disappearance of both these HRDs and call for an independent investigation into this incident in particular and the other incidents of disappearances in general.  Failure to do so would inevitably lead to the conclusion that  such incidents have occurred at the hands of agents of the State against whom the government does not wish to take action.

Sri Lanka: Blocking Lanka e News: An Indication of the Regime’s Fear of an Informed Citizenry

 Press release/ 27 Oct 2011

  NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders views the blocking of the website of Lanka e News in Sri Lanka as clear sign of the present regime’s fear of an informed citizenry. The site has been blocked by the State owned Telecom, its subsidiary Mobitel and the privately owned Dialog internet service providers. No reason has been given to the management of Lanka e News for this unlawful and anti-democratic blocking of   this website.

 The Right to Information is a fundamental right that has to be protected under any circumstances. By blocking Lanka e news the GOSL has violated this fundamental and sacred right of the people of Sri Lanka.

 The immediate provocation for blocking this website seems to be its coverage of the killing of the Presidential Adviser Baratha Lashman Premachandra on 8th Oct 2011. He had been shot dead during an election related scuffle between him and Hon. Duminda Silva, a Member of Parliament and an Adviser to the Defence Ministry, who were two opposing politicians of the ruling coalition at the recent Municipal Elections in Colombo.  The latter happens to be a close associate of the all-powerful Gotabhaya Rajapakse, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and a brother  of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

 Lanka e News has been in the forefront, reporting on the alleged underworld connections of Duminda Silva, the complicity of the police in the killing of Premachandra and the subsequent covering up of the investigation into the incident.  The website of Lanka e News published very informative stories on the issues concerned including   interviews with politicians of the ruling party regarding the violent behavior of Duminda Silva.

 The scuffle and the  shooting  that took place in broad day light on the day of local government elections has brought to the surface some of the  fault lines of present regime which maintains its power by instilling   fear into its opponents  and practicing  corruption. Leading politicians of the ruling party have directly and indirectly blamed Duminda Silva for various misdeeds such as his dealing in the sale of drugs, gun running and underworld connections while the Defence Secretary openly stood by him.  Politicians of the Opposition also hold Duminda Silva responsible for using violence to break up their peaceful demonstrations. It is also alleged that Duminda Silva had been taking the Defence Secretary around canvassing for support for the Government Party at the election.

 NfR views the blocking of Lanka e News as a high handed action intended to inhibit any informed discussion on the killing of  Premachandra, in particular and on  the upsurge of  political  violence and corrupt practices,  in general.

 The freedom to access information using the internet has been under pressure in Sri Lanka for years.  Last week the GOSL announced that it has sought advice from the Attorney General on banning web sites which publish false news about the President and the country. This development has to be seen as another step towards silencing dissenting voices in the country and not taken on its face value. In Sri Lanka, State controlled media has become a huge political mechanism which churns out fabricated and slanderous news and stories vilifying all those who oppose the regime.

 Meanwhile the head of TNL TV/Radio network Mr. Shan Wikramathunga has made a complaint to the police that a pro-government businessman had threatened him with death over his comments on Duminda Silva and on stock market irregularities.

 It has been reported to the NfR that former Lanka e News correspondent Shantha Wijesuriya had been continuously followed and intimidated by police intelligence operatives without any reason.  On 25th Oct 2011 the Free Media Movement accompanied him to make a complaint to the Police regarding this harassment.

 While unreservedly condemning the blocking of Lanka e News site by the State,  NfR express its fear that a new round of suppression of the media is in the offing.  NfR calls all democratic forces within and outside Sri Lanka to give wide publicity to this dangerous trend and take whatever steps possible to stop it before it is too late. 

  Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

 

Sri Lanka: Desecrating ashes of a mother in Jaffna – Immediate inquiry necessary .

NfR – Net working for rights in Sri lanka
Exile network for media and human rights in Sri Lanka
Press release/ 24 February 2011

NfR, Network of exiled Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders, expresses its serious concern about the incident on the 22nd instant,  of  the ashes of  a cremated mother in Jaffna being  desecrated and the putting of the bodies of 3 dogs killed by shooting  on the cremation spot.   In accordance with the Hindu tradition,  the ashes of a cremated body are collected the next  day  to be dissolved in a river or sea. According to media reports the  ashes had been scattered by military vehicles running over the spot. NfR sources in Jaffna confirmed the truth of this incident and indicated  that no one wants to speak about it openly because of fear.
The mother known as  Parvathi Ammal,  happened to be the mother of Velupillai Prabaharan , leader of the LTTE. It is clear this dastardly act was carried out just because of one of her siblings happened to be this  Parbaharan.  Mrs. Vallipuram Parvathi, who has been ill for some time passed away on last Sunday the 20th February 2011.  Condemning this kind of inhuman brutality does not mean that one condones the actions of  the LTTE or its leader Prabaharan.
NfR condemns this despicable act of desecrating her cremation site  which goes against  basic civilized norms and behaviors.   Respect for  dead is an age old human tradition. This uncivilized behaviour  goes against the noble  Buddhist precepts  which the present  leaders of the country  are claiming to follow.  The symbolic message this uncivilized behaviour  will convey, especially to the people in Jaffna and Sri Lankan Tamils  in general, and the people of the world outside in particular,   is that the Tamils are subjugated people who are not even allowed to exercise their basic cultural right to  respect their dead. Even the rules of war specify respect for the dead enemies.  Indeed, no Sinhalese would accept such an act to happen on their dead and would protest vehemently against such incidents.  However, in the current political climate in Sri Lanka, Tamil people cannot speak out because of the existing fear-psychosis. Nor can the right think citizens of the country do so without facing undesirable consequences.  In  highly militarized Jaffna, the general perception would be that  it is the security forces that should be held accountable to this act. Several media outlets had reported that the military prevented  people from  participating freely at  the funeral of the dead lady.
NfR views this incident as a continuation of military responses to Tamil peoples grievances and sending a signal of continued suppression of cultural rights  of Tamils in Sri Lanka.
NfR demand that an immediate and impartial inquiry  be held into this incident in order to find out the culprits  responsible for  this highhanded behavior. The findings of such inquiry should be made public and those responsible should be dealt with in a manner that  would be a deterrent to similar incident in the future.  Failing  to  initiate  such an inquiry and bring the culprits to book would lead to the inevitable conclusion   that this is an another atrocity committed by the security forces in collusion with the government of Sri Lanka.
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
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