Media watchdog condemns paramilitary ban on papers

[TamilNet, Friday, 12 January 2007, 11:52 GMT]
Free Media Movement, a Colombo based media watchdog, Friday said it noted with deep concern the alleged ban imposed by the Karuna paramilitary group on the sale of Colombo Tamil dailies Virakesari, Thinakkural and Sudar Oli in the East. The paramilitary group, operated by the Sri Lanka Army, had banned the sale of the Tamil papers, except the EPDP paramilitary owned Thinamurasu and the Sri Lanka Government owned Thinakaran in Sri Lanka Army controlled areas of Batticaloa district. The group has issued death threats to news agents in Trincomalee in an attempt to block the distribution of independent Tamil papers in the district.

Full text of the Press Release issued by the FMM follows:

Press Release
12 January 2007

Concerns on the dire situation of media in Sri Lanka

Indications of the growing deterioration of media freedom and a culture of impunity were evident in media reports yesterday.

The FMM notes, with deep concern, news reports on the alleged ban by the Karuna paramilitary group on the sale of Thinakkural & Sudar Oli newspapers, as reported in the Daily Mirror. This is not the first time the FMM has expressed its concern over the impossible situation facing media and journalists in the North and East of Sri Lanka. In October 2006, the FMM registered condemned the the burning 10,000 copies of the Tamil daily Virakesari and Metro News near Kiran Regional Secretariat in Batticaloa.

The situation is dire - journalists find it increasingly difficult to do their work, there is scant regard for media freedom and the freedom of expression on the ground and despite assurances by various armed groups, including the Sri Lankan Army, threats, harassment and intimidation against the media increase daily.

Accordingly, we are concerned and unequivocally condemn the alleged actions of Sri Lankan Army soldiers who forcibly entered the Thinakkural, Uthayan and Valampuri newspaper offices and asked editorial staff to desist from publishing a press communiqué from the Jaffna University Students Union, as reported in TamilNet today (see: ). Recalling our statements on 1st September 2006, expressing our dismay at the Army‚s actions against the Yal Thinakkural, and on 7th November 2006 on the threats made by the Commander of the Army 512 Brigade in Jaffna against Uthayan, Walampuri, and Yal Thinankkura on publishing any news critical of the military in Jaffna, we note with great disappointment that the situation has only turned worse for journalists in these news organizations.

Indicative of the growing impunity and the erosion of justice, rights and the rule of law in Sri Lanka, the FMM registers its disquiet over the traumatic intrusion into the home of Indika Maraingha, a News Editor at Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation, which resulted in the abuse of a domestic aide and injuries to his infant son. While it is not clear at the time of writing why this dastardly act was committed, that it was directed against a journalist is worrying. The FMM urges the authorities to bring the culprits to justice through an open and brisk investigation.

FMM calls upon all democratic forces to exert maximum pressure upon the Sri Lankan government, all political parties, the LTTE, the Karuna faction and other groups involved in the conflict, to bring all those responsible for attacks against the media to justice and help strengthen fundamental rights, including media freedom and the rule of law.


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