FMM deplores SLA's censoring of Jaffna press

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 08 November 2006, 11:52 GMT]
The Free Media Movement (FMM) in a press release issued in Colombo Tuesday said that FMM is "deeply concerned that the media situation in the Jaffna Peninsula is extremely dire, with many media establishments and journalists now preferring an overt legal censorship of the media as opposed to frequent thinly veiled threats and intimidation by armed forces, including the Army."

The FMM press release comes in the wake of The Commander of Army 512 Brigade in Jaffna warning the Editors of Jaffna Tamil dailies Uthayan, Valampuri and Yarl Thinakural against publishing news critical of the military in Jaffna, and commanding them not to carry any Liberation Tigers of Tamil Tigers of Eelam (LTTE) related news including messages and speeches related to the upcoming LTTE Heroes Day week.

Full text of the press release follows:

Editors of Jaffna dailies threatened

The Commander of Army 512 Brigade in Jaffna summoned the Editors of 3 Jaffna dailies on 6th November 2006 and warned them against publishing any news critical of the military in Jaffna, reliable sources informed the Free Media Movement (FMM) today.

The three dailies are Uthayan, Walampuri, and Yal Thinankkural.

As is reported in a leading newspaper, The Daily Mirror, in a front page story today, the Army 512 brigade officers had allegedly told the editors of the Uthayan, Yal Thinakural and Walanpuri newspapers not to carry any LTTE related news including messages and speeches related to the upcoming LTTE Heroes Day week.

The FMM strongly deplores this serious threat against the freedom of expression and considers such statements as direct censorship by the State machinery against free media. Notably, these veiled threats come in spite of assurances given to the International Advocacy Mission on Press Freedom in October by Defense Spokesperson and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella that no military / police officer has any right to censor or threaten the media, and will not be allowed to do so either.

The FMM notes that these three news papers had recently published an interview with the former Jaffna district political leader of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Mr. Eelamparthi, in which he was critical of military presence in Jaffna and how the State was dealing with severe humanitarian crisis in Jaffna peninsula. In light of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions on the ground in the Jaffna Peninsula, it is imperative that media is allowed access and freedom to report on the plight of ordinary citizens in a manner that calls upon policymakers to alleviate their suffering.

The FMM is deeply concerned that the media situation in the Jaffna Peninsula is extremely dire, with many media establishments and journalists now preferring an overt legal censorship of the media as opposed to frequent thinly veiled threats and intimidation by armed forces, including the Army. We note with concern that many Jaffna based Tamil language dailies have faced increasing harassment and threats during the last few months. Among other grave incidents, one newspaper was forced to close down after its Managing Editor was shot to death, four media workers have being killed, newspaper warehouses have been set on fire and newspaper editorial offices have been shot at.

The FMM strongly and urgently requests the government to condemn the threats and intimidation to media and journalists in the Jaffna Peninsula. We also urge freedom of expression and human rights groups to urgently voice their concern against these acts to stifle media freedom to the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka.

We hope these actions will bring help stem the escalation of intimidations and threats against media & journalists and secure their ability to report accurately the situation in the Jaffna peninsula and other areas in Sri Lanka.


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