Police raid Tamil journalist’s home on Press Freedom Day

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 04 May 2004, 01:50 GMT]
Sri Lanka Police raided a Tamil journalist’s home in Colombo Monday night. During the raid by a large group of Police personnel, the journalist, Mr. Sivaram Dharmeratnam (‘Taraki’), a political affairs columnist for English and Tamil papers published from Colombo and a member of TamilNet's editorial board, was away in Batticaloa in connection with the World Press Freedom Day on Monday, 3 May. The journalist’s family said that the raid was intimidating. Mr. Dharmeratnam was threatened and intimidated several times in the past for his comments and reporting on Tamil issues.

Tamil Journalist Mr. Sivaram Dharmeratnam (‘Taraki’)
Scores of special Policemen from the Kohuwela and Mount Lavinia Police stations, in the outer suburbs of Colombo, searched the journalist’s house and its premises claiming they were looking for a cache of dangerous weapons hidden there.

Police and Sri Lankan military stopped indiscriminately searching the homes of thousands of Tamils in Colombo and arresting and detaining them for prolonged periods after the Liberation Tigers insisted that the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) should be suspended until they reach a permanent settlement with Colombo to end the ethnic conflict.

The PTA gives sweeping powers to the armed forces of Sri Lanka to indiscriminately search, arrest and detain persons for prolonged periods sans legal redress.

“The raid on the Tamil journalist’s home is an act of crude intimidation aimed at stepping up pressure on Mr. Sivaram’s family and thereby prevent him from writing critically on sensitive issues affecting the Tamil people. That the Police should have chosen World Press Freedom Day to raid a well known Tamil journalist's home speaks volumes for the state of media freedom in Sri Lanka”, said Mr. R. Thurairatnam, President of the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance.

Mr. Dharmeratnam was threatened with death in 2000 and 2001 by unidentified armed groups believed to be working clandestinely with the Sri Lankan state and by a Sinhala extremist group.

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