Jaffna Press Club

Jaffna Press Club

Remembering Mylvaganam Nimalarajan – Sixteen Years: No Justice, No accountability

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Today, 16 years have passed since our colleague Mylvaganam Nimalarajan was assassinated. Along with the lack of justice for hundreds of thousands of Tamil people massacred in the Tamil homeland in the island of Sri Lanka, there has similarly been no justice for journalists and media workers, including Nimalarajan.

The culture of assassinating Tamil media workers, which began with the killing of Nimalarajan, has resulted in the disappearance or deaths of 41 journalists and media workers. Until now the Sri Lankan government has been silent on all these cases. This government, which portrays itself as that of ‘good governance’, is attempting to show that it has begun investigating the killing of media workers by announcing investigations into the death and disappearance of our colleagues in the South, Lasantha Wickrematunge and Prageeth Eknaligoda. However, as even these investigations waver this government is not yet prepared to announce even a nominal investigation into the killing of Tamil journalists and media workers.

Even when Northern journalists have on several occasions put forward petitions to the Sri Lankan president, prime minister, media minister and Inspector General of the Police, these petitions have been simply discarded.

In the middle of this year all the media organisations in the North made a good-will visit and met with the Sri Lankan president, prime minister and media minister in parliament, and once again put forward a demand that an investigation with the involvement of international media organisations into the deaths and disappearances of all journalists and media workers must begin. However, the president and prime minister have remained silent. This illustrates this government’s lack of interest in the investigation that we called for. It reinforces doubt over whether this government is protecting those responsible for the killing and disappearance of Tamil journalists and media workers, allowing the culprits to continue to roam freely till now. This action has also strengthened the widely emerging opinion that this government too would not deliver justice.

It is incorrect to point to the recent climate where North-East journalists and media workers are able to work, as a reason to avoid discussing such an investigation. In particular, a climate where culprits do not face justice cannot guarantee return to the previous disturbing environment will not recur.

This has been wholly revealed by incidents instigated against Tamil media workers this year and last year, even under the new government.

Moreover, allegations of elected Tamil parliamentarians preventing Tamil journalists and media from working freely have been strengthening. Whilst the government seeks to portray the introduction of the Right to Information bill as an achievement, these politicians do not want people to know what takes place in an ordinary district development meeting. These emerging developments are seriously affecting the aspect of democracy. These are not qualities of one who is to represent their people. Additionally, the exertion of pressure and power on media organisations is not justifiable.

This government, which portrays the introduction of the Right to Information bill as an achievement, but meanwhile systematically holds it back, reveals its real intentions.

Today, on behalf of all the media organisations of the North-East, we once again put forward our demands to the world and to the Sri Lankan government:

–       An urgent investigation with the involvement of international media organisations into the massacre and disappearance of media workers and journalists;

–       Assurances at all levels for the freedom of journalists to carry out their duties freely;

–       Immediate implementation of the Right to Information Bill.

 

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Written by Jaffna Press Club

October 19, 2016 at 9:04 am

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JPC Calls on President for Impartial Inquiry into Journalist Murders and Missing Persons

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31 May 2015

H.E President MaithripalaSirisena

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Impartial inquiry into journalist murders and missing persons

With the assassination of journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan in 2000 setting the stage for violence against Tamil journalists, the path was opened for many to go missing or be killed in the North-East, ever since. In particular many journalists have been killed in the Jaffna Peninsula. Some have gone missing. Other media workers have also been killed or gone missing. Media organisations have been attacked several times.

At the same time, many journalists were killed, unidentified, in Vanni in the war period. There is even today a continued narrative wherein they are not acknowledged as journalists. In particular there is no verifiable information whatsoever about the missing and dead journalists from the final stages of the war.

Not a single inquiry has specifically been undertaken into the unlawful killings and abductions which have taken place. With the initial stage inquiries, they have been left in a state of pending. Yet several different parties have come into power and have created commissions to appear as if they are undertaking inquiries, and by claiming that those commissions will bring about resolutions, have instead destroyed the statements and testimonies of colleagues of the killed or missing. To this day, we still cannot learn what has happened to those commissions or their reports.

In relation to fellow journalist Prageeth, you have proclaimed that inquiries into missing people will recommence. Jaffna Press Club welcomes this announcement wholeheartedly. But we hope that it will not merely be an inquiry in name or left in pending.

While speaking of Prageeth, we must emphasise the need for inquiries, from the disappearance of Ramachandran in Jaffna, to those journalists and media workers that have gone missing from Vanni. We would also like to stress the need for inquiries into the murders of all journalists and media workers, and that those responsible must be brought to justice.

However we can never have trust in inquiries undertaken with the same security mechanisms related to journalist killings and abductions. Therefore we would like to clarify our demands for inquiries carried out under the scrutiny of impartial international media organisations.

Written by Jaffna Press Club

June 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm

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The Sri Lankan government has not created the environment needed for press freedom

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Even after the armed conflict in the North has ceased, as the intimidation of journalists has increased, many journalists are fleeing the country having received death threats. Meanwhile, those journalists who continue to work on the ground, continue to have death threats sent to them. In these circumstances, the media community is gripped with fear over the dangers that journalism is going to face in coming days.

The trend of murdering journalists, that started at the end of the year 2000, with the murder of one of our fellow journalist, Mayalvahanam Nimalarajan, continues to till now. Before our very eyes, many of our fellow colleagues have been shot dead. Many have been abducted, many have disappeared. Till now, the Sri Lankan government has responded to these incidents with a long silence.

Whilst the government of Sri Lanka states it has brought a three decade long war to an end, violence against the media has increased in recent times. It raises the questions – has the Sri Lankan government’s war turned against the media? Many journalists, such as Uthayarasa Shalin from Valampuri newspaper, Thileep Amuthan from Uthayan newspaper and Selvatheepan from Thinakkural, have escaped from attempts made against their lives by unidentified persons.

Two Thinakkural journalists, T. Vinojith and P Winslow, were searched for by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) who disseminating false propaganda against them stating that they received training by the LTTE. Under these circumstances P Winslow escaped, fleeing the country. Similarly the journalists, S. Nitharshan, V. Kajeepan, S.K. Prasath, S. Karan and S. Tharshan, who went to report from the High Security Zone in Jaffna, had direct death threats made against them by the military. Amidst such threats S.K. Prasath has also fled the country.

In line with this, the military at Omanthai check point tried falsely accuse the journalists, K Hamsanan, V Kajeepan, S. Nitharshan, S. Mayuran, P. Paskaran, S. Soruban, who were travelling to take part in a media training workshop in Colombo on the 25th.

In this way, journalists in the Northern Province are conducting their work everyday amidst severe intimidation, putting their lives at risk. Meanwhile, filing cases seeking compensation in order to cripple media organisations, and summoning editorial board representatives to Palali Army Camp and the 4th floor has become routine. The journalist, Lempard, from Mannar district, is currently facing such investigations. Northern journalists are working with fear, at gunpoint, 24 hours a day. Being threatened and being followed has become normal.

In this environment, the Sri Lankan government is preventing the journalists from even gaining skills related to their careers. A perfect example of this, is the incident at the Omanthai checkpoint on the 25th, as well as two previous incidents when journalists from the Jaffna peninsula travelling to Colombo, were stopped and turned back after Sinhala chauvinist organisations, supported by the state, opposed.

Seven journalists, travelling to such a training workshop, escaped from an attempt to arrest and imprison them, accusing them falsely of possession of marijuana. We note with concern the attempt made to frame at the Omanthai checkpoint, which is clearly under Sri Lankan military control.

This incident illustrates what is to take place in the future. That journalists are being followed and being intimidated reveals the lack of security. As the Sri Lankan government has not created the environment needed for press freedom, we, journalists from the North, have launched a demonstration calling for press freedom, and strongly condemning the plots and ongoing murder attempts and attacks being made against journalists. We thank all parties who supported this protest.

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July 31, 2014 at 9:54 am

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JPC strongly condemns dreadful and immoral actions

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The Sri Lankan government states the Northern Province has recovered from the clutches of three decades of war. However, in the North, particularly within the Jaffna peninsula, intense threats against the media, which is described as the 4th pillar of democracy, are still seen.

The incident that took place yesterday at the Omanthai check point in Vavuniya is a very good example of what we have stated above. Yesterday on Friday, at 5pm, 16 journalists from the Jaffna peninsula travelled to attend a training workshop taking place in Colombo today about security for journalists.

Unidentified people followed the journalists from Jaffna town, as they were travelling in two vehicles. At this point, military police who stopped the journalists at the Maankulam region, recorded the journalists’ name, address as well as their identity card number. Whilst the details were being recorded, only one of them was wearing military police uniform, the other three were wearing civilian clothes.

When the journalists questioned “why are you inspecting us?”, the only reason they stated was: “we stopped your vehicle at the Elephant Pass check point, however you did not stop.”

After this, when the journalists continued their journey and reached Omanthai check point, there were up to 6 vehicles present for inspection. However, 5 army soldiers and 3 police officers only inspected the vehicles that the journalists travelled in.

As everything in the vehicle was being vigorously inspected, one army soldier placed a cigarette box under the driver’s seat. As 3 of the journalists who travelled in the vehicle were watching, a police officer took it and said there were drugs (marijuana) inside.

Then the police took the vehicle and the journalists to the Omanthai police station. There the police confiscated the journalists’ identity cards as well as mobile phones and laptops. Later, after media organisations in the south learnt of the incident and spoke to the police, the journalists’ belongings were returned. However the police stated they must arrest the driver.

Even when the journalists, who saw the army soldier place the cigarette box, said, “you can’t arrest the driver, arrest the soldier”, there was no action taken. Under these circumstances, the journalists continued their journey to Colombo from the police station today, early on Saturday morning, at 5am.

Therefore, whilst we point out that this act by the army was very well planned, we also strongly condemn such immoral acts. From this incident we conclude that the Sri Lankan government is committed to preventing journalists from the North from fostering a relationship with journalists in the south in every way [and] repressing them by any means available.

At this moment, we remember when Sinhala chauvinist groups twice drove away journalists from the Jaffna peninsula, who had gone to a journalists’ training workshop, preventing them from taking part.

On one hand, as the Sri Lankan government is trying to portray the journalists of the [Jaffna] peninsula as terrorists, on the other, it is taking measures to ensure their circle of contacts does not widen.

Therefore, whilst we strongly condemn such dreadful and immoral actions, we wish to highlight that Jaffna journalists are working amid such harassment and deceptive efforts by the Sri Lankan government.

Written by Jaffna Press Club

July 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm

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Sri Lanka an unfit place for journalists to live in safety and security

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The Jaffna Press Club strongly condemns attempts by the State to prevent the knowledge -based development workshops for Tamil speaking journalists tarnishing them with a racist brush in circumstances where the threats against journalists and media organisations from the North of Sri Lanka are already at a very high level.
 
An investigative journalism training workshop organised by Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) for journalists from the North-East was once again disrupted by state assisted goons. The workshop was disrupted by a group of more than hundred persons who carried out a protest against it.  On the 22nd of May, 2014, the same workshop organised by TISL at Girithale, in Polonnaruwa, for journalists of the North-East was suspended after the direct intervention of the security forces.  That workshop had been organised with the title of ‘Investigative reporting on the enforcement of the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)’. After receiving instructions from the Defence Ministry, military personnel from the Minneriya Army Base visited the site and issued a warning that led to the workshop being suspended. The journalists who had come for the workshop were sent back. The workshop was rescheduled for the 6th of June, 2014 and began at a hotel in Negombo.  It is in this situation that a group of persons held a protest outside the hotel demanding that the workshop be cancelled.
 
The chief demand of the protestors was to cancel the workshop and turn out the journalists. It is pertinent to note that there was no protest or objection when the same workshop was held for journalists of our fellow race. Therefore we cannot but conclude that this protest was held with a sinister objective. It has also become public that these persons came well prepared for the protest.
 
The Sri Lankan State has been campaigning amongst the international community stating that it has been enforcing the recommendations made by the LLRC. It has also been continuously releasing data and statistics relating to those who surrendered and the number of persons who had disappeared. But in the domestic sphere we see that Tamil journalists are denied the opportunity to even speak about the LLRC recommendations and their enforcement.
 
Many journalists in the North-East have been murdered with impunity in recent critical times. Some have been abducted or been disappeared. A number of journalists have escaped murder attempts with serious injuries. Such a critical situation has led to many journalists fleeing the profession and even the country. In recent times the risky situation for journalists of the North-East has re-escalated. In the last two months alone atleast three journalists who worked in Jaffna have fled the country due to threats to their lives.
 
While the threats against the workshop were being made in Negombo, Sivagnanam Selvatheepan, a journalist from Jaffna who escaped an attempt on his life has fled Sri Lanka and sought refuge in a western country. We would like to therefore bring to the understanding of the international community that such continuous harassment of the media makes Sri Lanka an unfit place for journalists to live in safety and security.

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June 9, 2014 at 6:24 pm

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Take Immediate Action to Prevent Violations of Democracy and Human Rights from Continuing

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The Sri Lankan government’s announcement that all CHOGM visitors would be able to access all regions unfettered was a welcome one. However we have observed that the freedom of movement of all international media persons visiting the island has been restricted. We are deeply concerned by such challenges to democracy.

We also condemn the restraining methods used on relatives of missing persons who attempted to hand over petitions to UK Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to Jaffna today (15/11/2013) as well as the intimidation of Tamil journalists attempting to report on the incidents.

Tamil journalists, who had gone to reporting the intentional disruption by authorities of peaceful demonstrations held by family members of missing persons and Tamil people demanding justice, were threatened by individuals believed to have been members of the security forces dressed in civil clothing, further illustrating that intimidation of Tamil journalists continues to take place on the island. Those particularly journalists were also photographed by those same individuals – a cause for fear for their safety. In recent times such circumstances have been the backdrop of disappearances and assassinations of journalists.

 In light of these events, we again urge the international community to take appropriate action without delay.

Similarly, Tamils travelling to the south to raise awareness about their missing family members were blocked by authorities from completing their journey, disproving the Sri Lankan government’s assurances of freedom of movement.

The Jaffna Press Club urges that the Sri Lankan government and the international community take immediate action to prevent such violations of democracy and human rights from continuing. We especially urge visiting Commonwealth Heads of State to take up these issues.

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November 16, 2013 at 9:46 am

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வலிவடக்கில் ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் மிரட்டப்பட்டமை – கொலை அச்சுறுத்தல் விடுக்கப்பட்டமை கண்டனத்திற்குரியது

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கடந்த காலங்களில் ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் படுகொலை செய்யப்பட்டமை மற்றும் காணாமல் போகச் செய்யப்பட்டமை இலகுவில் மறந்து போகக்கூடியது ஒன்றல்ல. 

இலங்கை அரசு வடக்கில் இயல்பு வாழ்வு திரும்பி இருப்பதாகவும், வசந்தம் வீசுவதாகவும் அடிக்கடி கூறிக்கொள்வது மீண்டும் ஒருமுறை பொய்யென அம்பலமாகியுள்ளது. ஜனநாயக நாடொன்றில் நான்காவது தூணெனவும், காவல் நாயெனவும் அடயாளப் படுத்தப்படுகின்ற ஊடகத்துறை வடக்கில் தொடர்ந்தும் மோசமானதாகவே இருந்து வருகிறது. கொலை அச்சுறுத்தல்கள் விடுவிக்கப்படுவதும், துப்பாக்கி முனைகளில் அச்சுறுத்தப்படுவதும் தொடர்கின்றது. கடந்த நான்கு வருடங்களுள் அது எத்தகையதொரு மாற்றத்தையும் கொண்டிருக்கவில்லை.

பாதுகாப்பு பிரதேசமென அடையாளப்படுத்தப்பட்டு உள்ள வலிகாமம் வடக்கில் எஞ்சியுள்ள பொது மக்களது வீடுகள் பாதுகாப்பு தரப்பினரால் இடித்து அழிக்கப்படுவதாக கிடைக்கப்பெற்ற தகவலின் அடிப்படையிலேயே ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் குழுவொன்று அங்கு செய்தி சேகரிக்க சென்றிருந்தது. இராணுவ பாதுகாப்பு வலயத்துக்கு வெளியே தமது செய்தி அறிக்கையிடலுக்கான விபரங்களை திரட்டிக்கொண்டிருந்த வேளையிலேயே அவர்கள் பாதுகாப்பு தரப்பினரால் சுற்றி வளைக்கப்பட்டு அச்சுறுத்தப்பட்டுள்ளனர். 

அவர்களது புகைப் படக்கருவிகள் பறிக்கப்பட்டு பலாத்காரமாக அதிலிருந்த புகைப்படங்கள் அழிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. தொலைபேசிகள் பறிக்கப்பட்டு கொலை அச்சுறுத்தல் விடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. இவை அனைத்துமே மக்கள் பிரதிநிதிகளான நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்கள், மாகாணசபை உறுப்பினர்கள் மற்றும் உள்ளுராட்சிமன்ற பிரதிநிதிகள் முன்னிலையிலேயே நடத்தப்பட்டுள்ளன.

ஊடக நெறிமுறைகளின் பிரகாரம் தமது செய்தி அறிக்கையிடல் பணிகளில் ஈடுபட்டிருந்த எமது அமைப்பின் செயலாளர் விக்னேஸ்வரன் கஜீபன், பொருளாளர் சுந்தரம்பிள்ளை ராஜேஸ்கரன், மற்றும் நிர்வாகசபை உறுப்பினர்களான சிவாநந்தன் கஜேந்திரபிரசாத், சிங்காரவேலு நிதர்சன் மற்றும் சகநாளிதளான உதயனின் புகைப்பட ஊடகவியலாளரான சந்திரகுமார் தர்சன் ஆகியோரே மிரட்டப்பட்டு கொலை அச்சுறுத்தலுக்கு உள்ளாகியுள்ளனர். ஏற்கனவே எமது அமைப்பின் தலைவர் தர்மபாலன் வினோஜித் மற்றும் அங்கத்தவர் புனிதரூபன் வின்ஸ்லோ ஆகிய இருவரும் அச்சுறுத்தலுக்கு உள்ளாகிய நிலையில், விடுக்கப்பட்டிருந்த தற்போதய அசம்பாவிதமும் நடைபெற்றுள்ளது.

கடந்தகாலங்களில் திட்டமிட்டு அரங்கேற்றப்பட்ட ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் படுகொலை சூத்திரதாரிகள் கண்டறியப்பட்டிருக்கவில்லை அவர்களது படு கொலைகளுக்கான நீதிகள் மறுக்கப்பட்டும் வழக்குகள் கிடப்பில் போடப்பட்டுவிட்டன.

அதேபோன்று காணாமல்போன சக ஊடகவியலாளர் சுப்பிரமணியம் ராமச்சந்திரன் இதுவரை வீடுதிரும்பியும் இருக்கவில்லை. இத்தகைய சூழலில் ஊடகவியலாளர்களுக்கு விடுக்கப்பட்டுள்ள கொலைமிரட்டலை சாதாரணமானதாக புறந்தள்ள முடியாது இவ் அச்சுறுத்தலை வன்மையாக கண்டிப்பதுடன் இவ்விடயம் தொடர்பில் சர்வதேச ஊடவியலாளர்களை பாதுகாப்பதற்கான அமைப்புக்களிடம் எமது உரிமைகளை வலியுறுத்தி எடுத்து செல்லவுள்ளோம் என்பதை அறியத் தருகின்றோம் என ஊடக மையம் தெரிவித்துள்ளது.
 

Written by Jaffna Press Club

October 29, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized