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Photo: FMM presents its short term proposals to President Maithripala Sirisena

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) heartily congratulates newly elected Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. The IFJ calls on President Sirisena to ensure he delivers on the short-term proposal on re-establishing freedom of expression rights in Sri Lanka put to him by the Free Media Movement in December 2014.

The IFJ also congratulates the Sri Lankan people, media and its affiliates – the Sri Lankan Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and the Free Media Movement (FMM) – for the successful and peaceful election.

Mr. Sirisena was elected President of Sri Lanka in the presidential election on January 7, 2015 ending the decade-long rule of Mahinda Rajapaksha, whose tenure saw media restrictions and harassments for many journalists.

Jane Worthington, the IFJ Asia Pacific acting director, said: “The IFJ congratulates the Sri Lankan people, media and newly elected president; and calls for media freedom and the safety of journalists to be at the forefront of the President’s reforms.”

The IFJ added: “The FMM put forward a media reform proposal while expressing support to Mr. Sirisena on December 16, 2014 and the IFJ hopes that the proposal will be looked into with highest priority by the government.”

The FMM proposal for media reforms include enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act, abolishment of impunity in the crimes against journalists, ensuring of independence of press, and ending the censorship on media.

The cabinet had approved the Freedom of Information Act in February 2004 under the premiership of Ranil Wickremasinghe, who has been re-appointed as the Prime Minister in the new government.

The IFJ said: “Impunity is a major issue for press freedom in Sri Lanka as investigations into killings, disappearance, attacks and threats on journalists and media institutions have not taken place. The IFJ urges the new Sri Lankan government to immediately establish mechanism to investigate crimes against journalists and ensure the safety of media workers across the country.”

It’s notable that over the past several years, the press freedom index in Sri Lanka has been on a steady decline. There has been systematic harassment to the media, with killings, attacks and threats to opposition voices; forced exiles and restriction attempts such as police questioning to media, restrictions on online media and threats to organizations training journalists, especially those from Tamil dominated areas.

The IFJ added: “It’s an opportunity for Sri Lanka and new government to ensure the democratic governance by ensuring complete media freedom and respect to freedom of expression.”

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its partners in the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) strongly condemn the June 29 crackdown by Sri Lanka’s police and security agencies, in which the offices of two web-based news sites were raided and nine media workers arrested.

The IFJ learns from Sri Lankan affiliates that a team of approximately 25 law enforcement officials arrived at the shared premises of the two websites, SriLankaXNews and SriLankaMirror, on Friday morning. All the media workers present were detained within the locked premises for three hours and questioned by the police, following which they were taken away to the headquarters of the Crime Investigation Department (CID). They are yet to be released and no formal explanation has been issued by the police authorities on the reasons for their arrest.

Computers and other equipment were confiscated from the premises of the news websites.

Concurrently, the police also raided the residence of Ruwan Ferdinandez, formerly with the SriLankaMirror and now editor-in-chief of SriLankaXNews. The latter is widely regarded as the news website of Sri Lanka’s principal opposition, the United National Party.

Just the day before the raids, Sri Lanka’s government had ordered the country’s main internet services to cut off access to five Tamil-language news websites: TamilWin, Athirvu, Sarithan, Ponguthamil and Pathivu.

“We note that this crackdown occurs immediately after the government ordered the dissolution of the elected governing councils in three provinces of the country, including the politically sensitive eastern province”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“The raids on independent media speak of an intent to seriously curb critical commentary during the campaign and run-up to fresh elections in these provinces”.

SriLankaMirror was one of five websites blocked by the government in November 2011, following a directive that all websites carrying news and current affairs content on the country should be registered with the Ministry of Information.

It was subsequently unblocked on condition that it would not provide links to any unregistered websites.

In May, Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court declined to hear a petition filed under the fundamental rights clauses of the Constitution, seeking that the restraints on accessing the websites be removed.

“We are deeply saddened that despite the return of peace and relative political stability in Sri Lanka, the intolerance for independent media reporting and commentary shows no signs of abating”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“We demand the immediate release of the nine detained media workers and the removal of all restrictions on accessing the websites that have been at the receiving end of the government’s unwelcome attention”.

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சண் தவராஜா

FILM TRAILER :
சிவராம் நினைவு நிகழ்வு மற்றும் தராக்கி ஆவணப்படம் திரையிடல் சென்னையில் ஏப்ரல் 29ஆம் திகதி நடைபெற்றது. திரைப்படத்துறையினர் சென்னை ஊடகவியலாளர்கள் ஆய்வாளர்கள் என பலரும் கலந்து கொண்டனர். சென்னை எம் எம் திரையரங்கில் தராக்கி ஆவணப்படம் திரையிடப்பட்டது. சிவராம் கொல்லப்பட்டு 7 ஆண்டுகள் கழித்து இந்த ஆவணப்படம் வெளியிடப்படுகிறது. சிவராம் கொல்லப்பட்டபோது சென்னையில் ஒரு சில கண்டனக் கூட்டங்கள் நடைபெற்ற பின்னர் முதல் தடவையாக இந்த நினைவு நிகழ்வு நடைபெற்றது. இந்த ஆவனப்படதினை ஊடவியலாளரும் ஆவணப்பட இயக்குனருமான சோமிதரன் தயாரித்திருந்தார்.

சிவாரம் கொலைக்கு பின்னர் சரிநிகர் பத்திரிகை ஆசிரியர் சிவகுமாருடன் இணைந்து இலங்கை தமிழ் ஊடவியாலாளர்கள் மற்றும் ஊடகவியல் குறித்து ஒரு ஆவணப்படத்திற்கான ஓளிப்பதிவை ஆரம்பித்து தொடர்ச்சியாக ஆவணப்படுத்தி வந்தனர்.இந்த நிலையில் அதில் ஒரு பகுதியாக சிவராம் நினைவாக “தராக்கி ஒரு பத்திரிகையாளனின் பயணம்” ஆவணப்படம் சுவிஸ் சிவராம் ஞாபகார்த மன்றத்தின் அனுசரணையுடன் திரையடப்பட்டது.

இந்த படத்தில் சிவராமுடன் நெருக்கமாக இருந்தவர்கள் சிவராமின் மனைவி மற்றும் பிள்ளைகள் எனப் பலரும் சிவராம் குறித்து இந்த படத்தில் பேசியிfருக்கிறார்கள். ஒரு ஊடகவியலாளனின் பயணமும் மரணத்துள்ளான வாழ்வும் கண்ணெதிரே தெரியும் மரணத்தை எதிர்கொண்டு ஊடகப் பணியாற்றியதும் படத்தில் பதிவு செய்யப்பட்டுள்ளது.
Taraki a journalist journey . 55 min Tamil and English. direction by Someetharan . editing by P kamalakannan

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in condemning a campaign of slander and vilification that has been launched against the leader of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) through state-controlled media.

The IFJ learns from sources in Sri Lanka that on March 22, the state-controlled ITN channel carried a news item claiming that it would soon be exposing a “traitor”, while showing pictures of Gnanasiri Koththigoda, president of the SLWJA in the background. The anchor-person referred to a number of journalists forced into exile by the climate of intimidation as “media traitors” and crudely suggested that Koththigoda was through his news reporting in Colombo, aiding the cause of secession espoused by sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

The SLWJA is an IFJ affiliate of long standing. One of Koththigoda’s predecessors as SLWJA president, Poddala Jayantha, has been living in exile since January 2010 after suffering a brutal assault in June the previous year that has left him with permanent disabilities.

“We are shocked at the continuing violence of the rhetoric employed by government officials and the state-owned media outlets, despite the spirited protests of journalists within Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

As already noted, the rhetoric began escalating when Sri Lanka’s journalists began a campaign in January demanding accountability for attacks on the press during the country’s long civil war against Tamil separatism. It became shriller still after the U.N. Human Rights Council in March adopted a resolution censuring Sri Lanka for its failure to act against suspected war crimes during the last phase of the conflict.

The IFJ learns that Koththigoda on March 23, took up the matter of the threatening tone of ITN’s coverage with Sri Lanka’s Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene. The minister then reportedly called up ITN’s director for news, Sudarman Raddeligoda, and obtained an assurance that the attacks would cease. Yet the attacks have continued according to IFJ sources in Sri Lanka.

“We learn that the ITN news director was an unsuccessful candidate for parliament on a ruling party ticket during the last general elections in Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“His role in unleashing a torrent of abuse against courageous journalists speak up for the cause of national reconciliation, speaks of the complete demolition of institutional autonomy and independence in the atmosphere of triumphalism that has followed the end of the civil war”.

The IFJ urges the Sri Lankan authorities to restrain the strident voices being aired through ITN and other government-controlled media outlets.

“A drastic change in the tone of the engagement between the government and independent media is long overdue in Sri Lanka”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific

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Sunanda Deshapriya

In just  4 days more, we will commemorate  the 6th death anniversary of  Darmarathnam Sivaram, who was  abducted and killed in Colombo on 28th April 2005.

Sunanda Deshapriya

In just 4 days more, we will commemorate the 6th death anniversary of Darmarathnam Sivaram, who was abducted and killed in Colombo on 28th April 2005.

Known as Siva among his friends and as Taraki in the media field, Sivaram was one of the best analytical minds in Sri Lankan journalism. He was an organic intellectual, with an enviable knowledge of politics and war. The foot prints left by Sivaram in Sri Lankan journalism has outlived his life, and will remain with us for a long time to come. His writings will remain as part of the history of the Sri Lanka Tamil peoples struggle for self rule. Sivaram’s writings are fitting proof for the dictum that ‘journalists write the first draft of the history.’ (more…)

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RSF
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Reporters Without Borders calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to immediately release LankaeNews editor Benette Rupasinghe, who was today arrested by the Colombo police for allegedly threatening another man. Aged 68 and a diabetes sufferer, Rupasinghe is currently being held in the infirmary of Colombo prison.

The press freedom organization condemns the way the government is hounding Rupasinghe and the other journalists who work for this Colombo-based opposition news website. The methods it is using to silence opposition journalists are outrageous and unacceptable.

Rupasinghe was arrested when he went to Colombo police headquarters today in response to a summons to make a statement. The police arrested him without taking him before a court. His lawyers tried without success to obtain his release on bail.

It seems he will now remain in detention until 7 April, pending the completion of the police investigation into the clearly premeditated arson attack on the LankaeNews office on 31 January. According to LankaeNews, the police have accused him of threatening the brother of a suspect in the arson attack.

Since the website’s creation in 2005, its staff have been the target of intimidation, threats, smear campaigns and abduction.

Rupasinghe’s arrest marks an escalation in the government’s campaign of harassment. Reporters Without Borders urges the international community and human rights and press freedom organizations to do everything possible to help get Rupasinghe released.

Asia-Pacific Desk , Reporters Without Borders , Paris – France , 33 1 44 83 84 70 , http://en.rsf.org/asia,2.html

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RSF
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for LankaeNews, a Colombo-based online newspaper that has made a major contribution to media pluralism and independently reported news and information in Sri Lanka, and for its journalists, who are unable to work normally because of the many threats and attacks against them.

Their safety is no longer assured as a result of all the harassment and intimidation that is detailed in a report that three media freedom and human rights organizations – Free Media Movement, Inform Human Rights Documentation Centre and Law & Society Trust – released on 24 March.

Reporters Without Borders has decided to relay the report’s appeal to international organizations for help in finding the means to guarantee the physical safety of LankaeNews’ journalists.

Launched in 2005, the website incurred the government’s wrath just over a year ago when it supported Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the leading challenger to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 2010 presidential election. The site’s cartoonist, Prageeth Ekneligoda, disappeared on 24 January 2010 and is still missing. More than a year has gone by and his family is still without any news of him.

LankaeNews editor Sandaruwan Senadheera fled to Britain in March 2010 after receiving death threats. Then an arson attack destroyed the website’s premises in Colombo on 31 January of this year.

Entitled “Call for urgent interventions to ensure security of LankaeNews,” the report also highlights the irregularities in the investigation into the January arson attack and the newspaper Dinamina’s smear campaign against the website. Dinamina claimed that, when the police examined its offices after the fire, they found porn films, alcohol and used condoms.

The investigation into the arson attack has not been conducted in a serious manner and has produced no hard evidence. The case is due to come before a court on 20 April.

Reporters Without Borders believes that it is vital for justice to be done in a country where journalists are often the victims of violence. The impunity must stop.

Sri Lanka is ranked 158th out of 178 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Asia-Pacific Desk – Reporters Without Borders – Paris , France – +33 1 44 83 84 70 – http://en.rsf.org/asia,2.html

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