Tamil media Alliance slams raid on journalist's home

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 May 2004, 13:07 GMT]
The Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) said Tuesday it strongly condemns the Police raid on journalist Sivaram Dharmeratnam’s home in Colombo on World Press Freedom Day. “The Sri Lankan government and its armed forces have long attempted to portray Tamil journalists as supporters of armed violence with a view to destroying their professional credibility. We consider the raid on Mr. Sivaram’s home as a continuation of this policy," the SLTMA said in a statement Tuesday.

The following is the full text of the SLTMA statement:

“The Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance strongly condemns the Police raid on journalist Sivaram Dharmeratnam’s home in Colombo.

A large number of Policemen armed with assault rifles raided Mr. Sivaram’s home around 8.30 on May 3 Monday night. Mr. Sivaram was away in Batticaloa on Monday to attend a get-together organised by the East Journalists’ Association to mark World Press Freedom Day. Mr. Sivaram’s wife and three children were in the house at the time. The officer who led the Police team informed her they had information that dangerous weapons were concealed in Mr. Sivaram’s house and hence wanted to search for them.

Policemen searched the house and its compound for almost an hour but found nothing.

The SLTMA feels that the raid is not only a threat to Mr. Sivaram but to all Tamil journalists. The Police raid is against all norms of justice.

There is no bail for the possession of firearms under Sri Lanka’s laws.

In the past there have been allegations that unscrupulous elements in the Sri Lankan armed forces planted weapons and explosives in Tamil people’s homes in order to arrest and detain them for prolonged periods under the draconian Prevention Terrorism Act.

The search for weapons in Mr. Sivaram’s house raises the fear of such actions being repeated to incriminate Tamil journalists.

The Sri Lankan government and its armed forces have long attempted to portray Tamil journalists as supporters of armed violence with a view to destroying their professional credibility. We consider the raid on Mr. Sivaram’s home as a continuation of this policy. This is not the first time that Mr. Sivaram has been intimidated and harassed by the Police.

The Police searched his home in Colombo and arrested him under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1996 on suspicion. He was released without charges.

The raid would hamper Mr. Sivaram’s freedom to work as an independent journalist from his home by creating suspicions in the minds of people in his largely Sinhala neighbourhood in which his house is situated in Colombo.

The SLTMA urges everyone who is committed to establishing the Rule of Law and good governance in Sri Lanka to prevail on the Sri Lankan government to stop perpetrating such indiscriminate acts of intimidation on Tamil journalists.

Threats and intimidation of Tamil journalists are continuing because none of the Sri Lanka armed forces personnel and cadres of paramilitary groups working with the military in the northeast who are suspected of threatening, intimidating, attacking and murdering Tamil journalists have been brought to book.

The SLTMA notes with extreme regret that Tamil journalists are continuing to be harassed and intimidated even in this atmosphere of peace”.

 

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