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Home > Tamils - a Nation without a State > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Democracy, Sri Lanka Style > Members of Presidential Security Division attack Journalists
Democracy Continues, Sri Lanka Style...
In September 1998, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), accused the Sinhala Sri Lanka press of 'of war mongering, racism and ignorance about the country's ethnic conflict". The report said: "It is as if all journalistic norms have been discarded in the frenzy to criminalise Tamils and to create an atmosphere of suspicion bordering on paranoia." The report's conclusions were arrived at after monitoring English, Sinhalese and Tamil newspapers over a three-month period in 1997 but the CPA said the trends of that period "still appear to hold true''.
It appears that nine months after the report, Sinhala journalists themselves, have been at the receiving end of attacks by 'persons dressed in police uniform' and those 'dressed in civil attire' including those from the Sri Lanka's Presidential Security Division. The words of Nadarajah Thangathurai from the dock in March 1983 may be of some relevance at this time:
"I want to ask this question from my Sinhala friends. Do you accept as correct and justified the various acts of oppression that the Tamil people have suffered until now not only in our land but in various parts of your land as a result of various acts of thuggery and terrorism? Do you also consider wrong our attempt to free ourselves from the inhumane oppression of your government? ... Believe me our freedom is an assured fact and will come. Once that happens your law books and terrorist laws cannot touch us. Thereafter you will be the sole 'beneficiaries' of the very laws that oppress us now. Will you urge your government to stop the injustice against us and acknowledge our sovereignty? Will you as a first step towards this and towards the eradication of terrorism, urge your government to recall the Sri Lanka Police Force and the Armed Forces - wholesale merchants of terrorism - from our soil? I leave it to you to decide whether you will show the world how committed you are to justice..."
The 'Sri Lanka Free Media Movement' declared on 15 July 1999:
'The Free Media Movement vehemently condemns the attack on members of the media, who covered the (Sinhala) Opposition Protest Rally today (15th July). Media personnel were assaulted, their cameras and equipment snatched and some arrested by a group of persons dressed in police uniform and civil attire.
All information available shows that this was not a spontaneous act but a premeditated action. It is clear that the very same police personnel who moved to disperse the opposition protesters by tear gassing and shooting, attacked the media personnel who were reporting these incidents. Journalists have identified several persons, among those who attacked them, dressed in civil attire, to be from the Presidential Security Division. This is the worst attack on the media in recent history.
The Free Media Movement also considers the attack on the Opposition Protest Rally, an infringement on the Fundamental Right of the Freedom of Expression. We see this as a beginning of another era of oppression of journalists.
We have no option but to consider the provocative statement issued by the Minister for Media yesterday (14th July), regarding Media Mafia, as a prelude to putting this plan into action.
The Free Media Movement vehemently condemns this, the worst attack on the media by a government that came into power, promising to safeguard democracy and media freedom." (Sri Lanka Sinhala owned Sunday Island, 18 July 1999)
The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka in a statement yesterday denounced the physical attack on media personnel covering the UNP demonstration last Thursday against the PA governments failure to adhere to its promises.
The perpetrators and their despicable actions should be condemned, the Editors Guild said.
The working journalists of this country have been horrendously targeted through the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, batons, and high pressure water cannons by men identified as those belonging to the Presidential Security Division during the attack, the statement said.
This has resulted in ten journalists being either hospitalised or having to seek medical treatment. Costly damage has also been caused to the camera equipment belonging to mediamen, it said.
Some of the media personnel who suffered at the hands of dictatorial elements in the police belong to many news gathering organisations, the statement noted.
The cameramen who were attacked are Saman Mendis (Dinamina), Janapriya Samaradiwakara (Yukthiya), Buddhika Weerasinghe (Lakbima-Best Photo journalist 1998), Asoka Fernando and Lal Spencer (Sunday Leader), H. A. N. Fernando (Sithijaya), M. A. Pushpakumara and Sanjeewa Chinthaka (Sunday Times), Subha Dissanayake (Rupavahini), and Lakruwan Wanniarachchi (Lankadeepa). Ajith Samaranayake a reporter of the Ravaya newspaper, also suffered injuries.
"To assault accredited working journalists while they were performing their professional duties is a crime against democracy and an insult to civil society. Some of the photographers had their film rolls confiscated or exposed and destroyed by uniformed policemen", the Editors Guild said.
These policemen who carried out the dirty work have become a law unto themselves. And those persons, however high they may be who unleashed these brutish men must know that they have not won the day, the statement further said.
Whilst recording last Thursdays incidents as yet another dark chapter in Sri Lankas history, the Editors Guild called upon all democratic forces to clamour for a liberal media policy in order to continue with democratic freedom in the country. (Sri Lanka Sinhala owned Sunday Island, 18 July 1999)