Tuesday, September 08, 2009

JDS raises alarm over arrest of "Irida Lanka" journalists

Three staff journalists attached to 'Irida Lanka' newspaper have been released on bail after been arrested in Deniyaya, Matara and brought to Colombo to be interrogated by the the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID). Morawaka Magistrate ordered the release of the journalists on cash and surety bail on Tuesday the 8th of September. The journalists were accused of "criminal trespass" by the police who held them in detention since the 2nd of September. Police told the courts that they were held on a detention order.These three journalists were detained under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) are of the view that this is another act of suppressing the media freedoms by the present regime and strongly condemn it.

Three journalists who are being detained are staff journalist Shalika Wimalasena, provincial correspondent Daya Nettasinghe and Photographer Ravindra Pushpakumara. This was not the first instance where 'Lanka' newspaper was targeted by state repression. Previously another three journalists were taken into custody on 13 August when they were engaged in pasting publication's advertising posters and later released.

Earlier, police media spokesperson Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Nimal Mediwaka told media that the three “Lanka” journalists have been arrested on suspicion of an assassination plot involving the President of Sri Lanka. DIG Mediwaka has further stated that these three journalists had photographed a mansion frequented by the President of Sri Lanka. Deniyaya Police who made the arrest, however, had said in their initial statement that the cause for the arrest was an unauthorized entry to a private property.

The said property which is believed to be frequently visited by the President of Sri Lanka has never been declared as a high security zone or no-go area. Act of photographing of such property, JDS consider, is an exercise of right to information of the public and it will, by no means, amount to an act of terrorism..

Repressive laws such as the PTA and the Emergency Regulations are time and again used by the regime in order to suppress democratic freedoms of any nationality of the island whenever it desires to do so. This simple truth has been proven by the detention of three Sinhala journalists under the PTA just after three days J S Tissanayagam, a senior journalist was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment under the draconian law termed the PTA.

The JDS condemn out rightly the arrest of 'Irida Lanka' journalists,while demanding an immediate end to state repression targeted at 'Lanka' newspaper. JDS call upon all the political parties in Sri Lanka and the democratic forces world over to join forces to pressurize the Government of Sri Lanka to abolish the Prevention of Terrorism Act under which hundreds and thousands of Sri Lankans were subjected to torture and death since 1979, as an initial step of restoring democracy in the island.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka


Related Links:

‘Lanka’ journalists released - Lanka Truth

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Human Rights Under Spotlight In Sri Lanka

Click 'play' to listen to the report

Human rights violations continue in Sri Lanka despite the end of the war: 300,000 Tamils are still incarcerated. In the last week, a journalist has been jailed for 20 years of hard labor, a senior U.N. official has been expelled for criticizing the government, and a dispute has broken out over TV footage that purports to show a Sri Lankan soldier executing Tamils.

© National Public Radio

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Footage reveals Sri Lanka camp conditions

New film appears to reveal the victims of Sri Lanka's war suffering poor conditions in UN-funded camps.

They are among the victims of Sri Lanka's civil war, living in camps funded by the UN.

Now footage has come to light apparently showing how bad conditions are in the camps - patients on intravenous drips lying on mud floors, a man so weak he is unable to brush the flies from his face.

The mobile phone footage, from the group War Without Witness, was reportedly shot two weeks ago in Vavuniya, in northern Sri Lanka, where 200,000 displaced Tamils are being held.

The concern now is that when the monsoon rain season begins, the camp will be flooded.

The plight of Tamil children was raised by Unicef spokesman James Elder, who has just been expelled from the country after being accused by the government of spreading Tamil Tiger propaganda.

© Channel 4

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sri Lanka: Access denied

The Guardian Editorial - The Sri Lankan government is hugely dependent on outside aid in its efforts to deal with the human consequences of the war which the island had to endure for more than a quarter of a century. High military spending, collapsed tourism revenues, disrupted agriculture, reduced trade, and, to make matters worse, natural disaster in the shape of the tsunami have all undermined the economy.

The government simply does not have the resources to undertake, without international help, the work of repairing infrastructure, restoring economic life, feeding and temporarily housing large numbers of displaced people, and then returning them to their old homes in conditions approaching normality. Long before the war reached its end earlier this year, United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and scores of voluntary organisations were all present in Sri Lanka ready and anxious to mitigate the impact of the fighting on ordinary people. They were kept at arm's length by the Sri Lankan authorities, who brooked no interference with, or oversight of, their military campaign. There was reason to hope that, with victory, this attitude would change. Unhappily, it has not. Colombo is still severely restricting access to the north, particularly to the area of the final battles, and to the camps where an estimated 280,000 people displaced by the fighting are detained.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, came to Colombo a week after the war ended to ask for "unhindered access" to those camps. UN agencies have instead found themselves hampered in their attempts to bring in the materials to make life in the camps bearable, particularly vital as the monsoon breaks. Voluntary agencies have similarly found themselves blocked by regulations which seem to change weekly, if not daily, while some ICRC offices have been closed down on government orders. Independent travel by journalists is banned. In addition, the government reacts with fury to any criticism, from whatever source, of its slowness in getting the refugees out of the camps and back to their homes.

The secretary general's reward for the low-key approach he has taken to the Sri Lankan crisis since he assumed office has been to be ignored. Now the Sri Lankans have served an expulsion order on the Unicef spokesman, James Elder, after he warned that the monsoon would cause chaos and suffering in the camps. The Colombo government wants aid but it also wants to micromanage the way it is deployed and to bully those who have the job of delivering it. It is time that the donor nations and the agencies formed a united front to resist this unreasonable and ungrateful attitude.

© The Guardian

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Terrorist Investigations Unit questions ‘Lanka’ editors

The officers of Terrorist Investigation Unit who visited the office of the ‘Lanka Irida’ newspaper questioned the members of its Editorial Board.ASP Oshan, Inspectors of Police Janakamthe and Saman and Sub Inspectors Hemachandra and Razeek have been in the team that questioned the Editorial Board of ‘Lanka Irida.’

Three journalists of ‘Lanka Irida’ who went to Deniyaya area to find information regarding the construction of a large building and a road on a private land using ‘Maga Neguma’ assets including its vehicles, were arrested by Deniyaya Police. The reason for the arrest was stated as taking photographs of the house where President Mahinda Rajapakse visits to carry out the election campaign of the Southern PC election.

The three journalists are still detained by police under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and today’s questioning of the Editorial Board is said to be a part of the investigations carried out by the police.

© Lanka Truth

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sri Lanka’s expulsion of UNICEF official is a clear warning to all UN agencies: ACHR

A New Delhi-based human rights watchdog has said that the expulsion of a senior UNICEF official by the Government of Sri Lanka ‘is a clear warning to the UN agencies and all relief workers not to speak out about the situation of 300,000 Tamils who are being interned.’

Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, said: ‘It is worse than the way UN agencies are treated by authoritarian regimes and sets a new low. Burma treats aid workers better.’

Chakma was referring to Colombo’s move to give James Elder, UNICEF’s head of communications in Colombo, two weeks to leave the country after he expressed concerns about the plight of Tamils in the government-run ‘welfare camps’.

Elder is the first UN official to be expelled from the country. He was told that his diplomatic status will be revoked, even though his visa does not expire until next July.

There was no response from the government yesterday, although it has been reported that immigration authorities in Colombo had been instructed by the government to cancel the visa.

According to local newspapers, the government had been angered by remarks made by Elder to the media about the conditions in government camps that are home to almost 300,000 Tamils displaced after the Sri Lankan army routed the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May.

Elder warned recently that the island’s impending monsoon would flood the refugee camps, and called on the government to act.

UNICEF and the government had been involved in a war of words over who was responsible for supplying the camps with basic facilities such as toilets and tents. The government said criticisms over lack of facilities should be levelled at the aid agencies.

UNICEF pointed out ultimate responsibility for the camps rested with the government, and that the UN’s support had been greatly hindered by the government’s restrictions on access to the camps.

Elder, an Australian national, was a familiar figure to those who covered the bloody end game of the Sri Lankan civil war. He had been working in Sri Lanka for UNICEF since July last year and had been featured on foreign television news channels as well as quoted in international media. (ANI)

© Sindh Today

Related Links:
Sri Lanka 'reviewing' expulsion of UN official - AFP
UNICEF defends spokesman after expulsion order - IRIN

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