Sri Lankan military detains French TV crew

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 13:31 GMT]
Two French journalists, Capucine Henri and cameraman C. Siomon of France 24 news channel, were detained by the Sri Lankan police Christmas night for video-taping a Tamil family while being questioned by the Sri Lankan military at a road block near Boosa detention camp in Rathgama in Galle district. Expressing serious concern on the conduct of the Sri Lankan security establishment, the Free Media Movement (FMM), a Colombo based media watchdog, Tuesday said videoing a road block was not a national security issue. The FMM urged the police authorities to expedite the investigation and release the journalists in detention without further delay.

Full text of the press release issued by the FMM follows:

French TV crew arrested for videoing a roadblock and detained over Christmas night

"25th December. Colombo. Two French journalists detained by the military over a videoing a road block was kept in police custody over Christmas night in Southern Sri Lanka. A Tamil family of 11 whom they were filming also detained by the military and kept in the police over night. The driver and the conductor of the mini bus too were detained.

This is another instance of authorities over reacting on a right to know issue, ignoring that media has right to report in a creative way on matters concerning arrested and detention. FMM does not consider videoing a road block as a national security issue and express its series concern of detaining TV crew and a whole family on a minor incident.

TV crew of female journalist Capucine Henri and cameraman C. Siomon of France 24 news channel was filming a Tamil family visiting their detained relatives on Christmas eve. They were traveling in a mini bus and on the way filmed a road block for 5 seconds and topped it military objected to filming.

The TV crew was not allowed to enter the detention centre with the family. While two of them waiting in a near by restaurant for the family to come out of the camp after visiting their relatives the crew was arrested by the military and handed them over to Rathgama police at 7.00 pm 24th December 2007. Police officer who had watched video tape and told FMM there is a scene of a road block in the video and they are being investigated by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID). At 9.30 am 25th December the police had not yet decided whether to produce them in a court of law or to continue in the detention. Any person can be kept 48 hours in police detention without producing in a court in Sri Lanka.

Videoing a road block is not a crime to keep whole family and two journalists over night in a police station. There are so many instances that road blocks are filmed for various purposes including news reporting. Making a film on a family is not a crime either. FMM views this as another attempt to intimidate foreign media covering conflict related issues in Sri Lanka.

FMM deplores that peoples rights including right to know are being trampled without any consideration of rule of law under the emergency regulations in Sri Lanka today. At 9.30 am 25th December after 14 hours of detention the police had not yet decided whether to produce them in a court of law or not. Any person can be kept 48 hours in police detention in Sri Lanka. FMM urge police authorities to speed up the investigation and release the journalists in detention without further delay."

Recently, a Geneva-based independent watchdog, Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) said Sri Lanka ranked third worldwide in the journalists killed in 2007 in line of duty, behind Iraq and Somalia.


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