Australians protest against Bogolloagama press club meet
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 15 October 2008, 20:20 GMT]
More than 600 Australian Tamils protested in front of the National Press Club in Canberra
Tuesday while the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Rohitha Bogollagama, was addressing
an invited audience inside the National
Press Club, sources in Canberra said. The protesters highlighted Sri Lanka's escalating human rights violations
against the media workers.
"A Sri Lankan government representative is addressing Australian journalists while the
Sri Lankan government has banned journalists from visiting areas where there are
more than 200,000 Internally displaced, and where Colombo's embargo on
essential food is driving the IDPs towards a humanitarian crisis," protesters said of the
press club event.
"Without press freedom, the truth and ground realities about the suffering of the Tamil
people is not getting out to the international community," a protester said.
Mark Dodd of the Australian newspaper asked how a country that has questionable
track record of human rights violations could ask the Australian government to ban the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Catherine McGrath from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) commented on the
poor rating of Sri Lanka by various media rights groups. She asked whether the
Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) was going to allow journalists to enter LTTE controlled
areas; to comment on the killing of journalists where the GoSL had been accused; and to
comment on Sri Lanka opposition party leader's recent accusation of the GoSL in relation
to Mr Janaka Perera's assassination.
Mr Bogollagama while denying allegations against the Government of Sri Lanka
on Rights violations and physical violence against journalists, stated that press would be
allowed to visit banned areas once the areas are brought under GoSL control.
Michael Cavanagh from ABC Radio Australia stated that even the Irish Republican Army did
not lay down arms before negotiating with the British government. He highlighted that
since the GoSL's withdrawal from the cease-fire, monitoring missions, international aid
agencies and the United Nations have now left LTTE held areas, asking what that meant for
the GoSL's credibility and how the world was to be independently informed of ground
After meeting with Mr Bogollagama on Monday 13 October 2008, the Australian Foreign
Minister, Mr Steven Smith, immediately issued a press statement stating that,
"Australia's view remains that Sri Lanka's conflict cannot be resolved through military
means alone. All parties to the conflict must work towards a political solution that
meets the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans," he added.
Sri Lanka has recently intensified its military operations in an attempt to regain
territory held by the LTTE. Media personnel are prohibited from visiting LTTE held areas
or the frontlines, and rely on press releases by the GoSL.
In June this year, the country's Defence Ministry labelled journalists critical of the
GoSL as "enemies of the state", warning it would take "all necessary measures to stop
this journalistic treachery against the country". Media rights groups expressed
statements of shock and declared the GoSL's statement gave "indirect support and
justification for all the recent violence against the press."
Over 20 journalists have been murdered in Sri Lanka, and several more injured in attacks
which media rights groups have often blamed on Sri Lanken armed Forces.