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NewsHuman Rights Commission SL ready to inquire into Assault, Killings and Disappearances of Media Personnel – Dr. Deepika Udagama  

Human Rights Commission SL ready to inquire into Assault, Killings and Disappearances of Media Personnel – Dr. Deepika Udagama  

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Image: FMM team in front of the Human Rights Commission, Sri Lanka.

Press Release/2019-01-29.

The Human Rights Commission is ready to accept any basic information that could be provided in order to commence further inquiries into Assault, Killings and Disappearances of Journalists, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission, Dr. Deepika Udugama says.

She stated this when she met the executive committee members of the Free Media Movement on Tuesday (29), who requested her to mediate to take suitable action to grant justice to journalists and media institutes that came under attack.

Complaints to the police, eyewitness accounts and information regarding the slain and assaulted media personnel play an important role in meting out justice in these cases, and if the police has not taken action on the complaints made, the Commission can take action in these instances, the Chairperson said.

The FMM handed over a comprehensive report indicating instances where Killings, Assault and Disappearances of Journalists and Media Institutes have taken place without any action being taken against such incidents. We request all civic minded parties to provide any information pertaining to Killings, Assault and Disappearances of Media Personnel to fmmsrilanka@gmail.com or to,  Convener, Free Media Movement, No 96, Bernard Soysa Mawatha, Narahenpita, Colombo 5.Sri Lanka.

The complaint made by the Free Media Movement to the Human Rights Commission has been directed through this channel.

.C. Dodawatha

Convener

The letter handed over by FMM follows:

2019′ 01′ 29

Dr . Deepika Udagama,

President

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

Dear Madam,

Seeking justice for media persons and media institutions subjected to criminal activities

Sri Lankan experience in ensuring justice for crimes against journalists and media institutions has been tragic. We, the Free Media Movement, strongly believes that you are completely aware of this unsatisfactory circumstances. The Free Media Movement and citizens who value justice and human rights, repent this failure and negligence in ensuring justice to these victimized journalists and media institutions.

Under these circumstances the FMM carried out a detailed study on crimes against journalists and media institutions that has taken place from year 2000 to 2015 for engaging in their professional work. The research unearthed a massive stock of information, yet most depressing is to observe lack of records for some of these incidents. For example some crimesthat has taken place in the North, lack police complaints filed.

Even though a number of media workers also got subjected to crimes, theFMM for its initial study selected 30 incidents that represent the FMM, journalists and media institutions. It can be observed that the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Constitution, the freedom of holding an opinion or belief, the right to access to justice, equality, fundamental rights and the right to live were severelyviolated. FMM believes that if this trend gets allowed to continue, in the absence of a proper solution, it will be a irreparable threat on human rights, in its entirety.

With this we,the FMM presents a summary of the findings of the survey requesting the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to progressively intervene in creating a conducive non-violent environment for journalists and for the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

C. DodawatteConvener

Summary of report of journalists and media institutions subjected to criminal activities

The FMM study covered the period fromyear 2000 to 2015, taking into consideration 30 incidents representing different parts of the country, different surroundings and various sections of the media. The following table gives a summary of the incidents.

Incident list -2000 to 2015

Victim Nature of incident date

  1. MailvahanamNimalarajan Murder 19.10.2000
  2. RushanganKodhiswaran Assault 08.08.2002
  3. Aiyathurai G. Nadeshan Murder 01.05.2004
  4. NandasamyAiyyarBalanadaraj Murder 16.0082004
  5. DharmaratnamSivaram Murder 28.04.2004
  6. RelangiSelvaraja Murder 28.04.2005
  7. Sudaroli Newspaper Institution Bomb attack 29.08.2005
  8. SubramaniamSugeerdharrajan Murder 24.01.2006
  9. SampathLakmal de Silva Murder 01.07.2006
  10. Subramaniam Ramachandran Disappearance 15.02.2007
  11. SubashChandrabosh Murder 16.04.2007
  12. SelvarajaRajivwarman Murder 29.04.2007
  13. SahadevanNilakshan Murder 01.08.2007
  14. T.M.G.Chandrasekara Assault 27.12.2007
  15. Lal HemanthaMawalage Assault 25.01.2008
  16. Keith Noyhar Abduction & Assault 22.05.2008
  17. ParanirupasinghamDevakumar Murder 28.05.2008
  18. NamalPerera Assault 30.06.2008
  19. Radhika Devakumar Assault 08.09.2008
  20. Sirasa Institution destruction of studios 06.01.2009
  21. LasanthaWickrematunga Murder 08.01.2009
  22. UpaliTennakoon Assault 23.01.2009
  23. N.Vidyatharan Abduction & Assault 26.02.2009
  24. Poddala Jayantha Abduction & Assault 01.06.2009
  25. PrageethEkneligoda Disapperance 24.01.2010
  26. Siyatha Institution Assault 30.07.2010
  27. Lanka-e-news institution Setting on fire 01.02.2011
  28. GanasundaramKuganathan Assault 29.07.2011
  29. Udayan Newspaper Institution Attacked/set on fire 13.04.2013
  30. Mandana Ismail Threating 23.08.2013

Further details about the above incidents are attached as annexure 01.

A study on the incidents separately reveals that so far none of the suspected perpetrators has been punished by the Sri Lankan judiciary. As observed court cases for incidents such as murder of LasanthaWickrematunga and missing of PrageethEkneligoda, has shown slow progress. Yet in the majority of cases are documented under category ‘C’ claiming information on perpetrators can not be traced.

We have identified the following reasons for the failure to ensure justice and continuity of impunity practices.

01. Obstacles for further legal action

  • The fear that some of the survivors may face life threats again (Especially journalists living in the North and East)
  • Fear of the family of victims of losing another family member(s) by being visible for the rights of their lost loved ones

The father and sister of journalist Subramaniam Ramachandran who disappeared had gone to army camps regularly looking for him. Thereafter they had met MP Douglas Devananda, politician from the Northern Provinceand made inquiries. He has threatened them saying that they would face the same fate and there after Ramachandran’s family stopped the search fearing for their lives.

  • Lack of credibility in Institutions responsible of ensuring justice (Especially persons affected in the North and East do not trust the Police that they would ensure justice to them).

  • Absence of proper investigations, despite the existence of credible evidence

(The incident where former Minister Mervyn Silva and his guards stormed the Sri Lanka Rupavahini and assaulted News Director T.M.G.Chandrasekara was broadcast live and the victims complained giving names of those responsible, but no investigation was held.)

  • Lethargic progress of investigations despite the enthusiasm of the law enforcement agencies to initiate investigations

(Sandya Priyangani Eknaligoda, the wife of missing journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, tirelessly carried her campaign for nine long years with the support of CSOs seeking justice for her husband, yet investigations are processed extremely slow.)

2. The delay in the judicial system and failures of the legal structure

  • The Police responsible for arresting and producing suspects before courts after carrying out preliminary inquiries have failed and not shown interest.

  • Ineffective role played by the Attorney General(despite conventional reasons such as lack of resources)

  • Conventional shortcomings of the judicial system

It is noted through observing the ongoing investigations on crimes against journalists that piling up of cases in magistrate courts due to court delays has led to delay in justice for the victimized journalists.

3. Lack of Political will

  • The attack on Journalist T.M.G.Chandrasekara by a politician from the ruling party that ended without any investigation is an example. The government in power until 2015 followed a silent policy over these matters. The lack of commitment of all stakeholders including the Police can be analysed as a direct impact of lack of the political will to bring justice. As the civil society organisations continued the pressure on the accountability of the Government, the new government which came into power in 2015 resumed some of the investigations, yet eventually the momentum of the Government got diluted.

4. The link between the armed forces and the para-military groups

  • According to current revelations on suspects, above group has been identified as main factors to commit crime against journalists. Since these groups are directly linked with politicians there cannot be a commitment from politicians to further progressinvestigations of these cases. It became evident with circumstances that emerged following preliminary investigations.

5. The lack of a powerful contribution from the civil society and media consumers to end impunity and ensure justice.

  • Though the civil society organisations and media activist groups continued to campaign against impunity and violation of Human Rights, the force has not been sufficient to push the political will and commitment.

6. The insufficient intervention from media ownership to ensure justice.

  • We can clearly point out that there had been extremely insufficient commitment from media house owners to ensure justice and human rights to their own victimized journalists and end impunity. Under the circumstances that existed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, many media institutes became reluctant and maintained silence due to lack of trust and fear of increasing the levels of threat. Overall, commitment of media owners was below justifiable levels.

Free Media Movement 2019. 01. 29

Annexure 01:Summary of Crimes committed against Journalists and Media Institutions 2000 – 20151

Number and Name

Media Type2

Role/

Position

Race

Nature of

Crime

Date

occurred

Place

occurred

Suspected perpetrator4

Action/s taken

1.Mayilwahanam Nimalarajan

Mixed

Provincial Correspondent

Tamil

Murder

2000.10.19

Jaffna

Paramilitary

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

2.Rushangan Kodishwaran

Print

Staff

Tamil

Assault

2002.08.08

Batticaloa

LTTE

Complaint lodged but no-progress

3.Aiyaturei nadeshan

Print

Staff

Tamil

Murder

2004.05.01

Batticaloa

Paramilitary

Complaint lodged but no-progress

4.Kandhasami aiyar Bala nadaraj

Staff

Tamil

Murder

2004.08.16

Colombo

LTTE

Complaint lodged but no-progress

5.Dharmarathnam Sivaram

Mixed

Freelance

Tamil

Murder

2005.04.28

Colombo

Paramilitary

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

6.Relangi Selwaraja

Electronic

Freelance

Tamil

Murder

2005.08.12

Colombo

LTTE

Investigations are halted

7.Subramaniyam Sugeertharajan

Print

Freelance

Tamil

Murder

2006.01.24

Trinkomalee

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

8.Sampath Lakmal De Silva

Mixed

Freelance

Sinhala

Murder

2006.07.01

Colombo

Military

Investigations are halted

9.Subramaniyam Ramachandran

Print

Freelance

Tamil

Disappearance

2007.02.15

Jaffna

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

10Chadrabose Subash

Print

Freelance

Tamil

Murder

2007.04.16

Vauniya

Military

Investigations are halted

11.Selwarasa Rajiwarman

Print

Staff

Tamil

Murder

2007.04.29

Jaffna

Military

Complaint lodged but no-progress

12.Sahadewan Nilakshan

Print

other

Tamil

Murder

2007.08.01

Jaffna

Military

Complaint lodged but no-progress

13.T.M.G CHandrasekara

Electronic

Staff

Sinhala

Assault

2007.12.27

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

14. Lal Hematha mawalage

Electronic

Staff

Sinhala

Assault

2008.01.25

Colombo

Information insufficient

Investigations completed, but the court process has not being initiated

15. Keeth Noyar

Print

Staff

Other

Abduction and Assault

2008.05.22

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

16.Paranirupasingam Thewakumar

Electronic

Provincial Correspondent

Tamil

Murder

2008.05.28

Jaffna

Paramilitary

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

17.Namal Perera

Mixed

Freelance

Sinhala

Assault

2008.06.30

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

18.Radika Thewakumar

Mixed

Freelance

Tamil

Assault

2008.09.08

Batticaloa

Information insufficient

Investigations are halted

19.Lasantha wikramathun

Print

Staff

Sinhala

Murder

2009.01.08

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

20.Upali thennakon

Print

Staff

Sinhala

Assault

2009.01.23

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

21.Nadesapillai Vithyathran

Print

Staff

Tamil

Abduction and Assault

2009.02.26

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

22.Poddala Jayantha

Print

Staff

Sinhala

Abduction and Assault

2009.06.01

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

23.Prageeth Ekneligoda

Cyber

Freelance

Sinhala

Disappearance

2010.01.24

Colombo

Military

Court procedures has begun, but not completed

24.Gnasundaram kuganathan

Print

Staff

Tamil

Assault

2011.07.29

Jaffna

Paramilitary

Complaint lodged but no-progress

25.Mandana Smile

Print

Staff

Other

Intimidation,

2013.08.23

Colombo

Military

Investigations are halted

26.Sudaroli

Print

publication

Irrelevant

Attack::::::::

2005.08.29

Colombo

Information insufficient

Complaint lodged but no-progress

27.Sirasa

Electronic

Telecast

Irrelevant

Damage to property

2009.01.06

Colombo

Military

Complaint lodged but no-progress

28.Siyatha

Electronic

Telecast

Irrelevant

Attack:::::

2010.07.30

Colombo

Information insufficient

Complaint lodged but no-progress

29.Lanka E news

Cyber

Web publication

Irrelevant

Damage to property

2011.02.01

Colombo

Military

Complaint lodged but no-progress

30. Udayan

Print

Publication

Irrelevant

Damage to property

2006.5.2/2013.04.13

Jaffna

Military

Complaint lodged but no-progress

Notes: 1) During the period (2000 – 2015) a large number ofMedia people have been subjected to crime. This is collection of data is of 30 selected incidents

targeting journalists and media institutions for which legal actions have been instituted.

2)The attached media is decided on the basis the popular identification of the media, the Journalist engaged.

3)Here persons mentioned as suspected criminals are based on the information received from the victims and other related sources.

4)What is mentioned here is the situation up to November 2018

5)A government minister has been involved in the attack with the security forces.

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