Thursday, September 03, 2009

Prove gruesome video is fake, UN tells Sri Lanka

By Liam Cochrane for Radio Australia - The United Nations special representative on extra-judicial killings says Sri Lanka needs to back up its claims that a gruesome execution video is a fake.

A journalists' freedom group released the video last week and it appears to show two bound and blindfolded prisoners being shot in the back of the head as the gunmen laugh.

The footage, taken with a mobile phone camera, also shows another six men who appear to have been executed in this way.

The Sri Lankan army says the video is a fake, designed to discredit the security forces.

But special UN representative Philip Alston says: "The responsibility is on the government of Sri Lanka to demonstrate that a video of this quality and this apparent authenticity is, in fact, a fake.

"It is certainly not getting us anywhere to simply dismiss it out of hand."

Mr Alston, speaking from Washington, said despite an official news blackout as fighting raged in Sri Lanka's war against the Tamil Tiger rebels, there were "a series of allegations about widespread killings" in the last few months of the civil war.

"Those killings have led to a number of calls for the Sri Lankan government to investigate, to permit an independent international investigation to take place," he said.

"But, to date, there has been no response."

Mr Alston, who answers to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly annually, said he had told Sri Lanka he wants to visit to probe the latest claims.

He hoped the UN saw great importance in the idea that governments "really open themselves up to some sort of scrutiny, as Australia has recently done in relation to its indigenous people."

He hopes Sri Lanka would be persuaded to do the same.

"The government has come out very strongly, denied the validity of this particular video and also insisted that there have been no other such killings in the last year or so," he said.

"If that's the case, then the government has got nothing to lose and everything to gain by inviting an independent international investigation."


Related links:
Probe call over Sri Lanka killings - Al Jazeera

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sri Lanka defends 20-year sentence for journalist

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka's government defended a 20-year prison sentence given to a journalist accused of violating the country's strict anti-terror law, saying he was given a fair trial and the decision did not impact media freedom on the island.

J.S. Tissainayagam — who was singled out by President Barack Obama in a May speech as an example of persecuted journalists around the globe — wrote articles for the now-defunct Northeastern Monthly magazine in 2006 and 2007 that criticized the government for its conduct in the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Tissainayagam's conviction Monday sparked international criticism, with rights groups saying the charges were a violation of freedom of expression and calling on the government to grant him his unconditional release.

The government rejected the criticism, saying in a statement late Tuesday that the "verdict was arrived at after following a due process according to the domestic laws of Sri Lanka, and therefore does not amount in any way to a negation of media freedom in the country."

A pardon would only be considered after Tissainayagam exhausted all his legal appeals, the statement said.

It was the first time a journalist was found guilty of violating the country's Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The government has been accused of continuing a crackdown on the media even after it defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in May, ending a quarter-century-long civil war. The government has denied the allegations.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has said at least 11 Sri Lankan reporters were forced to flee the country in the past year, and Amnesty International has said at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers had been killed since the beginning of 2006.

© Associated Press

Related Links:
Sri Lanka stands ground over jailing of journalist - AFP

Journalist’s 20-year sentence casts chill in Sri Lanka - Christian Science Monitor

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Three journalists arrested by police

Three journalists of ‘Lanka Irida’ Sinhalese weekend newspaper who had gone for a media coverage to Deniyaya in Matara have been arrested by police say reports reaching us. The three journalists arrested by the police are Shalike Wimalasena, Ravindra Pushpakumara and Daya Tennekone.

When ‘Lankatruth’ inquired from Deniyaya Police, the officers there said no journalists have been arrested. However, Chief Editor of ‘Lanka Irida’ Chandana Sirimalwatta said when he inquired from Deniyaya Police regarding his journalists the police had said the three journalists were being detained and being questioned for trespassing on a Tamil Estate. When Mr. Sirimalwatta asked what crime the journalists had committed by entering a ‘Tamil Estate’ the police had said they were being questioned for unlawfully entering someone’s else’s property. However, Mr. Sirimalwatta told ‘Lankatruth’ that the three journalists had been arrested while walking on the road.

The excuse given by the police for arresting and detaining the three journalists has created concern regarding the safety of the three journalists. When police arrested two youths from Angulana the parents of the youths had been told that evening that the youths were arrested. However, next morning police had told the parents the youths were not arrested. Next the youths were found dead and the police is accused of the killing.

In this incident too police had told the Chief Editor of ‘Lanka Irida’ that the journalists were arrested but all media has been told that no journalist was arrested.

When ‘Lanaktruth’ wanted to find out details of the incident and tried to contact the police media spokesman the female officer who answered the phone said the media spokesman was not in his office. When we asked for a mobile phone number of the police spokesman she gave us a number and when we tried to contact him on the given number we found that it was a number that is not in use. When we told the female officer that the number was not in use and we were unable to contact the police media spokesman she said, “That’s the number. There is no other number to give you.”


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