01/24/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Protest against press censorship

Melani Manel Perera
Eight journalists are killed in 2006; many more, Tamil and Sinhalese alike, are threatened or attacked. Many choose exile.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Press freedom in Sri Lanka is under siege with both Tamil and Sinhalese journalists threatened, newspaper offices raided by police and people arrested or even killed, this according to the Free Media Movement (FMM) whose members as well as members of the national media demonstrated in front of Fort Station, Colombo’s main railway station,

Protest organisers demanded real investigations into several violations of press freedom that have occurred in the past three months.

They noted that last year eight journalists were killed, both Tamil and Sinhalese; that in the last three months, two Tamil journalists were arrested; that five other survived attacks; that ten editors and managing editors have received death threats in Colombo, not to mention countless others who are constantly harassed.

Some 300 journalists from various media companies, local and international, took part in the initiative. Relatives of some of the victims were also present.

After the demonstration, FFM organiser Sunanda Deshapriya lamented that many journalists have had to leave the country fearing for their lives.

Several media organisations were also represented: the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum and la Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance.

Demonstrators called on the authorities to conduct thorough investigations into some recent cases like the two-month detention of Tamil women journalists arrested without charge; the army publication ban on some Tamil papers and weeklies; the red tape imposed on a new Sinhalese newspaper and the “unofficial” censorship imposed on media and journalists working in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka.

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