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FMM Report: Violations of the Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka (Aug – Nov 2013)

Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka / 11.11.2013/ Press release
FMM Report: Violations of the Freedom of Expression Rights in Sri Lanka (Aug – Nov 2013)
The Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) will be hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) this week. Freedom of Express ( FoE) is one of the major values treasured by the Commonwealth.  Freedom of expression rights are the cornerstone of the democratic governance and essential tool in promoting and defending all human rights.

The Free Media Movement emphasised that the Freedom of Expression rights are not fully respected and continues to be suppressed in the country in its previous statement/open letter issued on 30 Oct. 2013.  
The reported incidents of the freedom of expression rights violations in Sri Lanka during the last 3 months are follows:
Sri Lanka: Freedom of expression violations since August 2013
01 Aug 2013: Protestors shot at; three succumbed to gun shot injuries
Opposition and human rights activists in Sri Lanka demonstrated Wednesday to demand that the government punish those responsible for the military’s killing of three civilians during a recent protest seeking clean drinking water.
04 Aug 2013: Journalists covering mass protest assaulted by the military
Journalists from several media institutions were subjected to a brutal assault while covering a protest by villagers seeking clean drinking water in the Weliweriya area in Gampaha. Journalists and camera crew who were covering the protest were prevented from covering the clash between the villagers and the security forces by masked military personnel.
Statement issued by the Sri Lanka Journalists Trade Union/ Lanka News Web
06 Aug 2013: Journalist victimised for criticising Rajapaksha clan by Derana TV
An announcer Mr. Kalum Amarasinghe in a famous FM channel Derana was  was fired via an SMS. He said that the reason for firing him was his expressions made in the radio program when presenting two Lankadeepa news headlines regarding the Rathupaswala army assault. He also said that his sacking was justified by the program director by saying that they have been ordered not to criticize anything about the President or the defence secretary.
17 Aug 2013: Tyres slashed; dead cat placed in front of the journalist’s residence
The tyres of the journalists Mandana and Romesh Abeywickrema family vehicle were slashed and the body of a dead cat dumped on their door step. And just prior to these events, a newspaper known for pro-government sympathies had been attacking Mandana Ismail, describing her as “unpatriotic”.
– FMM statement
24 Aug 2013: Armed home invasion of Sri Lankan journalist couple
A group of masked men, armed with knives and what seemed to be hand grenades, forced their way into the home of Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema and Romesh Abeywickrema. The men ransacked the house, took away valuable items including jewelry and, curiously, closely examined files and documents belonging to the couple. Mandana is associate editor of the Sunday Leader, and her husband Romesh is business editor of the same newspaper.
4 Sep 2013: Academics harassed for attending a seminar
The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA) says a group of academics who attended a conference overseas have been harassed after the military claimed that they had gone to attend an event in support of the LTTE.
06 Sep 2013: Editor killing: Second suspect discharged; Police says no evidence
Second suspect Kandegedera Priyawansa, who had been on bail in connection with the killing of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremethunga ( on December 8, 2009) was discharged by Mount Lavinia Chief Magistrate Rangajeewa Wimalasena. The first suspect Pitchchai Jesudasan had died while in remand last year.TID on the advise of the Attorney General in the absence of adequate evidence to connect him to the incident.
06 Sep 2013: Sri Lankan police question BBC Tamil reporter
Security officials in Sri Lanka have questioned a BBC Tamil reporter, Ponnaiah Manikavasagam, over phone conversations he had with two Tamil prisoners.
Anti-terrorist police summoned Ponnaiah Manikavasagam for questioning in Colombo on Monday, without disclosing the reason until he arrived. He was not allowed to have a lawyer present during the interview.
06 Sep 2013: Navi Pillay calls for the protection of …. journalists …from reprisal, intimidation or attack  
”I will be reporting on my observations later in the session, but wish to stress my immediate concern for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and communities I met during my visit from any reprisal, intimidation or attack.” – HR high commissioner Navi Pillay
7 Sep:  2013: A large section of the media is controlled directly or indirectly by the Rajapaksa regime – Editorial, Daily Mirror
Abraham Lincoln’s dream seems to have become a nightmare for Sri Lanka with an all powerful executive presidency getting more powerful, a patched up two- thirds majority in Parliament and presstitution through which a large section of the media is controlled directly or indirectly by the Rajapaksa regime.
18 Sep 2013: Editor fled the country
Senior journalist and Co-editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper Ms. Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema fled Sri Lanka to a North American country on 17th September 2013, according to reliable information received by the Free Media Movement (FMM).  Her journalist husband Romesh Abeywickrema, the editor of the business section of Sunday Leader and their 12 year old daughter too has left the country.
FMM Press Release/18.09.2013/ Lanka News Web
21 Sep 2013: Journalists followed and people intimidated
Namini Wijedasa reporting from the Northern Province
‘On Monday, we drew up at a roadside shop to interview the vendor. A motorcyclist drove up, parked outside and issued an innocuous greeting to the man, who stiffened. The most we could get out of him were monosyllables. A politician in Mullaitivu predicted that army intelligence will be at his door within hours of us leaving. “They will want to know who you are, why you came and what you asked,” he said. There was surveillance even at the gleaming new railway station in Kilinochchi, where we stopped to do some interviews about how resumption of train services could promote reconciliation. Eventually two uniformed army personnel approached us. The more senior in rank asked me politely whether I was Sinhalese, where I was from, why we were speaking to people and whether it would cause any problems.
22 Sep 2013: Al Jazeera blocked in Lanka because of election coverage
Al Jazeera television has been temporarily blocked in Sri Lanka over its election coverage today. Dialog Television is the main re-broadcaster of Al Jazeera television in Sri Lanka.Sources said that the Doha based TV station was blocked today by Dialog Television following one of its reports on the Northern polls.
24 Sep 2013: Police investigation on journalist Mandana’s “house robbers” on standstill
Investigations regarding the armed gang of thugs who recently broke into the house of Sunday Leader Co-Editor Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema’s house in pursuit of certain documents, have currently come in a standstill, Police sources say.
Ms. Abeywickrema had informed the Secretary of the Ministry of Law and Order retired Major General Nanda Mallawarachchi in writing, about the surprisingly slow pace of the police investigations regarding the matter.
06 Oct 2913: Two Journalists complain to the police for safety
Two journalists, Ananda Fernando and C.S. Kodikara, have lodged a complaint with the Kilinochchi police raising concerns over their safety.
A statement released by the two journalists said they had sought accommodation at a room of a house along Jayanthi Nagar in Kilinochchi to cover the Northern provincial Council elections and had subsequently returned to Colombo on 22nd September.
However they had later been informed by the house owner that a group of unidentified men had visited the house after the two journalists left, looking for them.
06 Oct 2013: Journalist Mandana Ismail kicked out from “Sunday Leader”
“The Sunday Leader” newspaper has taken steps to immediately terminate the services of its Co-Editor Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, and her husband Mr. Romesh Abeywickrema, the Editor of its Business Section. Ms. Mandana along with her husband and their 12 year old daughter left the country on the 17th September at dawn. Later she told the media that she intends to stay abroad for a while due to the rising death threats leveled against herself and her family.
10 Oct 2013: Sri Lankan Government try to ban No Fire Zone in Nepal
Once again the government of Sri Lanka has tried to prevent an international screening of No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, this time in Nepal. Yesterday the Nepali authorities gave the organisers of the Film Southasia festival just 24 hours notice that they must not show No Fire Zone and two other Sri Lankan films in their festival as planned
13 Oct 2013: Police in search for Channel 4 Journalists in Sri Lanka
The Sunday Leader learns that defence authorities were placed on high alert last week after information was received that a Channel 4 journalist was in the country.
Intelligence agencies have alerted the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) to look for the journalist and his partner who were believed to have been staying at an apartment in Colombo.
18 Oct 2013: We face threats ever day – Uthyan Editor
“Every day, our people face risk,” said Mr Thevanayagam. “And not only our journalists: all our staff are facing this kind of threat.”Last week, a female receptionist was followed home by a man on a motorbike who told her: “I’m always watching you. I’m always watching when you are coming to work and going home.”
20 Oct 2013: UPFA politico threatened a journalist
A UPFA Pradeshiya Sabha (PS) member, Nishantha Pradeep Kumara, from Medirigiriya was arrested for threatening a journalist who exposed illicit felling of trees on the pretext of flood control measures in the area.
 28 Oct 2013: Five journalists threatened in Valikamam North
Five newspaper journalists have lodged a complaint with the Coordinator of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission in Jaffna, T. Kanagaraja, claiming their lives are in danger following a press coverage they had carried out on  28  in Valikamam North, Jaffna, where some persons were involved in demolishing the remaining houses within the High Security Zone (HSZ). According to Kanagaraja, the journalists are S. Nitharsan (Thinakkural), S. Tharsan (Uthayan photo journalist) S. Rajasekaran (Valumpuri), V. Gajeeban and S. Gajendra (Tamil Mirror).
29 Oct 2013: Commonwealth calls for action against hate speech and protection of journalists
From the report of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council Election, held on 21 September 2013
5. To deter hate speech, existing laws need to be enforced and, where necessary, may be strengthened.
6. Political Parties must address acts of violence carried out by their supporters and actively foster a culture of tolerance.
7. Steps should be taken to develop a media culture conducive to independent and balanced reporting. All necessary measures should be put in place to protect the safety of media personnel.
30 Oct 2013: Free Media Movement seminar raided
A team of immigration officers raided a workshop held by the Free Media Movement (FMM) at Janaki Hotel, Colombo, yesterday afternoon (30). Sources told The Island about eight media organisations including the International Federation of Journalists were involved in the three-day seminar, which commenced on Oct. 29.
03 Nov. 2013: Detention of two IFJ officials is an attempt to intimidate and harass journalists inside and outside Sri Lanka
The International Federation of Journalists condemns the detention of Asia-Pacific Director Jacqui Park and Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Jane Worthington in Sri Lanka. Ms Park and Ms Worthington were detained at a press freedom meeting in Colombo on Wednesday and were held in their hotel and subjected to lengthy interrogation by defence and immigration officials and the Criminal Investigation Department all Thursday. The IFJ believes this move by Sri Lankan officials is an attempt to intimidate and harass journalists inside and outside Sri Lanka to prevent reporting on the realities of life in Sri Lanka.
05 Nov 2013: Sri Lanka media activists fear crackdown after arrests
Mr Sunil Jayasekera, spokesman for the Sri Lankan Free Media Movement (FMM), talks to journalists in Colombo on Monday, Nov 4, 2013. A media rights group on Monday expressed fears for the safety of journalists in Sri Lanka after Colombo grilled two Australian activists and seized computer data before kicking them out. The Free Media Movement (FMM) said it expected a crackdown by the authorities following last week’s questioning of the two International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) staffers in Colombo.
04th Nov 2013: Threats against Dr. Nimalka Fernando’s life through state media
On 4th November the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) broadcast a call in ive programme threatening Dr. Nimalka Fernando’s life.  Some of the callers called for elimination of Dr. Nimalka Fernando using the cleaning unit of the Sri Lankan Army.  Mr Hudson Samarasinghe who is the Chairman of the SLBC and moderator of the programme did not stop the callers from making offensive and derogatory statement nor spreading such violent ideas against Dr. Fernando. One caller referred to Dr. Fernando as a prostitute.
09 Nov. 2013: GoSL blocked seminar on ‘Commonwealth Values and the Role of the Legal Profession’ by revoking visas
President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Upul Jayasuriya, yesterday blamed the government for not granting visas to the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) delegation.Jayasuriya said in a statement: “The BASL, in collaboration with the International Bar Association (IBL), of which the BASL is a member was organizing a seminar on ‘Commonwealth Values and the Role of the Legal Profession’ to be held on 13 November 2013 at the ‘Grand Monarch’ at Thalawathugoda.
10 Nov 2013:  Our detention highlights the Sri Lankan government is unwilling to allow a free exchange of ideas – Aus. senator
Australian Senator Lee Rhiannon has been released from the custody of Sri Lankan government officials and allowed to leave the country. “Elected officials and members of civil society in Sri Lanka have provided us with examples of massive illegal land confiscation by the armed forces; people being jailed and detained with regular disregard for legal rights; violence, often involving rape of women and children, with no police investigation of these crimes; and ongoing intimidation of media workers.”  Lee Rhiannon said.
10 Nov 2013: Foreign Media accredited to cover CHOGM related events only: Ministry Secretary
Foreign journalists arriving here to cover the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), will be accredited only to cover CHOGM related events, Secretary to the Ministry of Media and Information Charitha Herath said. “There will be no restrictions on travel within Sri Lanka for foreign media personnel who arrive in the country for CHOGM, but only as tourists,” he said.
11 Nov 2013: Protests banned from 12th to 17th 
The government has decided not to allow public protests in Colombo and other locations for the duration of CHOGM, and police and the defence sectors have been advised accordingly, Ravaya reports. The CHOGM takes place from 12 to 17 of November in Colombo city, and also in Hambantota, Hikkaduwa, Galle and Kandy towns.
The Free Media Movement, Sri lanka
Convener – Sunil Jayasekara – +94 777751092   Secretary – Kumara Alagiyawanna – + 94 713357013 ;Treasurer – Azam Ameen
C/o  SLPI, No 96, Kirula Road, Colombo 05.  Tel: +94 115675906  Fax: +94 112573279
Email : [email protected]   


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