Freedom of Expression news from Sri Lanka

  1. 01st June 2009  – Media worker abducted & released
  2. 01st June 2009  – Senior journalists abducted and assaulted
  3. 01st June 2009  – Two editors arrested
  4. 03rd June 2009  – Religious statue smashed
  5. 00    June 2009 – Journalist threatened by an editor
  6. 04th June 2009  – Poddala Jayantha writes to IGP
  7. 03rd June 2009  – University cultural events limited to one day
  8. 04th June 2009  – President’s coordination secretary threaten a journalist
  9. 05th June 2009  – President requests media self censor
  10. 07th June 2009  – Journalists paid by the LTTE will be exposed – Minister
  11. 10th June 2009  – UNP wants PSC to probe attacks on journalists
  12. 10th June 2009  – No need for PSC; media minister
  13. 10th June 2009  – Former  Ontario premier denied visa for being outspoken
  14. 12th June 2009  – Economist” June issue banned
  15. 12th June 2009  – Five journalists under death threat
  16. 14th June 2009  – Defense secretary criticise some media
  17. 15th June 2009  – Case against Journalist withdrawn
  18. 15th June 2009  – Editor questioned for sources
  19. 16th June 2009  – Editor Questioned over a news story
  20. 18th June 2009  – Journalist barred form covering ministerial visit
  21. 18th June 2009  – Two Tamil journalists threatened
  22. 19th June 2009 – Journalist Wamanan case sent to AG for ruling
  23. 23rd June 2009  – Lawyers withdraw form case filed by defence secretary
  24. 23rd June 2009  – Contempt of court against the Sunday Leader
  25. 23rd June 2009  – Dissenting expats to be charged
  26. 24th June 2009  – Astrologer arrested for prediction
  27. 24th June 2009  – Tamil female journalist abducted
  28. 25th June 2009  – Jaffna newspapers burned
  29. 25th June 2009  – Press council re-established
  30. 25th June 2009  – Speaker regrets repealing draconian law
  31. 25th June 2009  – Police again fails to submit report on Lasantha killing
  32. 28th June 2009  – Minister Mervyn attack SirasaTV
  33. 26th June 2009  – Jaffna media gets last warning
  34. 29th June 2009  –           Press council  committee member dropped on political reasons

01. 01st June 2009  –           Media worker abducted & released

On 29th June the family of Tissa Senadeera, a youth who works at a magazine complained to the Polgasovita police their son had disappeared while coming back home from work. Later it came to know that he had been abducted by a white van and kept in a locked room for few hours. He had been released after a man looked liked the leader of the group visited and shouted that “this is the one”. Tissa Senadeera looked like the journalists Poddala Jayantha it is believed that he was abducted in mistaken identity. Abductors had threatened him not to complain but his parents had already lodged the complaint.

02. 01st June 2009  –           Senior journalists abducted and assaulted

On 1st of June 2009 around 5.15pm   Poddala Jayantha, senior journalist and General Secretary of   Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association was abducted by an unknown group in a white van. He was on his way back home form work. Later he was found left on the road side, severely assaulted. He was admitted to ICU of the Colombo general hospital an under went two operations. He was discharged on 26th June and now lives with his family n their home close to Horana, two hours away from Colombo.

03. 01rd June 2009  –           Two editors arrested

On 1st June 2009  late evening police arrested Bennet Rupasinghe news editor of on 2nd June 2009 morning its editor and publisher Sandaruwan Senadeera was also arrested. The Special Investigation Unit of the Mirihana Police produced the suspects, Benette Rupasinghe and Sandaruwan Senadeera  before the Nugegoda Magistrate on 2nd. Police submitted that they suspected the involvement of the two journalists to the incident since it had been the suspects who had initially given the news of the assault on Poddala Jayantha to his wife. Two journalists were released on personal bail of Rs. 500,000/ each by Nugegoda Chief Magistrate Vasantha Jinadasa on 2nd June 2009.

04. 03rd June 2009  – Religious statue smashed

On 3rd June a statue of Jesus Christ that had been installed ten years ago in the premises of the Catholic convent “Prasadani” at Minneriya was vandalised. The Catholic National Association of the Laity of Sri Lanka in a statement said ” these despicable acts had taken place on the night of June 3. We are sad to note that similar attacks on Christian places and objects of worship which occurred few years ago and eventually subsided seem to have once again raised its ugly head.”

05. 00  June 2009 –             Journalist threatened by an editor

On early June journalists Tilak Kodagoda of Ravaya was threatened by Sunday Divaina editor Mr. Gamini Summanasekara. Journalist Kodagoda  had published some criticism Mr. Sumansaekra. Angered by the article Mr.Sumanasekera had called Kodagoda at Ravaya news paper phone number and threatened him with death: “I will tell about you to the army commander and get you killed. You better be careful.” (This news was published on 2nd July so far Mr. Sumnasekara has not sent a denial to the lankanewsweb. According to reliable sources Mr.Sumanasekara’s threatening phone call has been recorded.)

06. 04th June 2009  –           Poddala Jayantha writes to IGP

On 04th June 2009 in a singed letter to Inspector General of Police journalists Poddala Jayantha said: “I write this letter to bring to your notice a shocking incident that I came to know while being treated in National Hospital for the serious injuries sustained in torture by a gang of thugs on June 01, 2009.Benet Rupasinghe and Sandaruwan Senadheera of Lanka-e-News website have been arrested and produced in court regarding the crime against me. These two persons are close professional associates and personal friends of mine. They have taken steps to inform the Inspector General of Police, the President’s office, government ministers and other authorities, media activists and my wife about the incident and I believe that their urgent mediation helped me to save my life at least like this.”

07. 03rd June 2009  –           University cultural events limited to one day

In a bid to avert violence in universities, the Ministry of Higher Education has decided to limit all university functions to one day and ban outsiders from attending them. “Undergraduates organise several functions and art festivals such as ‘Nala Mudu Suwanda’ at the Sri Jayewardenepura University and ‘Mage Deshaya Awadi Karanu Mena’ at Peradeniya University. These festivals continue for one or two weeks” higher Education Minister Professor Wiswa Warnapala told. The Island. Undergraduates were unhappy with the Minster’s decision. They will launch a mass protest against the Ministry’s decision.

08. 04th June 2009  –           President’s coordinating secretary  threaten journalist

On 04th June it was reported that Kumarasiri Hettige, coordination secretary for the president Rajapaksha had threatened a journalists of Neth FM with death. At the weekly press conference of the government Neth FM journalists played the recorded death threat by Mr. Hettige. Mr. Hettige a former journalist himself had said that he will do the same thing to NETH FM journalist that they did to Poddala (Jayantha) and they should know what happened to Lasantha (Wikrematunge). So far no action has been taken against Mr. Hettige and he continues to act as presidential coordinating  secretary.

09. 05th June 2009  –           President requests media self censor

President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the media in an inter-active session with the owners and Chief Editors of print and electronic media made an earnest request not to use the media to disturb communal harmony in the new era that has begun with the defeat of LTTE terrorism and the unification of the Motherland.  “My earnest appeal to you is not to write or broadcast anything that would create unnecessary divisions in society,” he said. “There is a danger that even a small incident could be blown up by provocative elements to cause much damage,” he cautioned. “Do not write anything to arouse hatred, do not let another terrorist movement to emerge”

10. 07th June 2009  –           Journalists paid by the LTTE will be exposed – Minister

On 07th June 2009 in an interview with state controlled Sinhala weekly “Silumina” cabinet spokesperson for national security Minister Keheliya Rambukwella  had stated that government has information on  journalists who obtained money form the LTTE to work for terrorists. According to the minister government is planning to expose them and talk legal action against them soon.

11. 10th June 2009  –           UNP wants PSC to probe attacks on journalists

On 10th June 2009 the UNP requested the appointment of a Parliamentary Select committee, with full powers, to look into the abductions and killings of journalists.Chief Opposition Whip MP Joseph Michael Perera, making a special statement in Parliament said that since 2005, eleven journalists had been killed and over 50 had been assaulted.“So far no one had been prosecuted or brought before the Courts. Every time an incident occurs the government says that it would appoint special police teams to investigate. But so far, police have not produced any concrete results”, he said. –

12. 10th June 2009  –           No need for PSC; media minister

On 10th June 2009 Media and Information and Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa told Parliament yesterday there is no need to appoint a Parliamentary Select Committee on the incidents of abductions and killings of journalists as the Government has given all required facilities and assistance to the police to conduct investigations on these incidents.The Minister was responding to the special statement made by the Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera requesting the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to look into the incidents of abductions and killings of journalists. –

13. 10th June 2009  –           Former  Ontario premier denied visa for being outspoken

On 10th June 2009 Sri Lanka  denied entry to Bob Rae, a prominent Canadian politician outspoken in his criticism of Colombo’s military campaign and then Chair of the Forum of Federations, the constitutional NGO advising the Norwegian peace process during 2002 and 2003. Sri Lanka’s Immigration Commissioner P. B. Abeykoon said “intelligence reports” meant Mr. Rae should not to be admitted and was therefore detained when he arrived at Colombo airport and put on a leaving flight.

14. 12th June 2009  –           “Economist” June issue banned

12th June 2009 issue of Economist magazine was banned for security reasons by Sri Lanka customs.  Subscribers who pay SLR 11,000 a year to Vijitha Yapa book shop in Colombo had not received their copies till mid June. The reason for this censorship could well be an article on Sri Lanka published  in the said issue. According to informed sources this is the 4th Economist issue that has been banned by customs in recent past. Sri Lanka Customs has banned several South Indian magazines in the recent past, including Ananda Vikadam. Owner of the well known Tamil bookshop, Poobalasingham, Mr. Sritharasing was detained for importing Ananda Vikadam on 5th March 2009.- MFSL note No 02.

15. 12th June 2009  –           Five journalists under death threat

On 12th June reported that according to an alleged confession of a personal security officer,himself a Naval officer, of a very ‘high ranking’ Naval officer, five journalists, including the Asian Tribune Colombo Correspondent and Bottom Line newspaper defence columnist, Ruwan Weerakone are reported to be under threat for reportage during war times, well informed intelligence sources revealed. On 12th June 2009 Weerakone made a complaint to the Piliyandala Police, 20 kilo meters South of Colombo (CIB 1354-223 complaint reference) in which had mentioned the name of the very ‘high ranking’ Naval officer who had issued threats on him and the other four journalists. According to the website Ruwan Weerakone, correspondent for Asian Tribune and the Bottom Line newspaper, Prasanna Fonseka – formerly of Lake House and currently with Siyatha newspaper, Tissa Ravindra from Rivira newspaper, Mihiri Fonseka of Lakbima and Amal Samantha of the Rupavahini Corporation as the five journalists in death list of a very high ranking naval officer . reported the same story earlier. 

16. 14th June 2009  –           Defense secretary criticise some media

On 14th June 2009 in an interview given to The Island defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksha said ” that an influential section of print and electronic media which worked overtime against the ruling SLFP-led coalition as it battled the LTTE during the past three years, had now switched sides.“They are playing a different tune now,” accusing them of being a critical element of the overall strategy directed against the state. “Nothing could be as ridiculous as what they say now if one bothered to check their background”, he said He said that the media had caused immense damage to the war effort by trying to appease their paymasters and various donors who provided a range of perks and privileges to undermine the war effort.

17. 15th June 2009  –           Case against Journalist withdrawn

On 15th June the UNP withdrew a case filed against an Independent Television Network (ITN) photo journalist for allegedly trespassing into UNP headquarters “Siri Kotha” at Pita Kotte during the course of a meeting. The UNP general secretary Tissa Attanayake and Puttalam district parliamentarian Palitha Range Bandara withdrew a case against ITN photo journalist Tilak Weerasinghe on sympathetic grounds. The photo journalist was alleged to have trespassed into the UNP headquarters during the course of a meeting. The matter was taken up before the Nugegoda Magistrate Wasantha Jinadasa.

18. 15th June 2009  –           Editor questioned for sources

On 15th June 2009 Colombo Crime Division questioned journalist , Chandana Sirimalwatte,  editor Sinhala weekly Lanka about a front- page story in the newspaper’s previous issue. The news story  said that houses built for “war heroes” with money raised by the government by means of public donations and special taxes had been sold to soldiers instead of given to them, as was originally intended. CCD officers the news paper office  at 5 p.m. on 16 June again and asked the editor to come to CCD headquarters the next day where he was questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was also asked to name sources.

19. 16th June 2009  –           Editor Questioned over a news story

Chief editor of ‘Lankadeepa’ Siri Ranasinghe was questioned by the CID in connection with the lead story of the newspaper in its June 16 issue which reported a presence of LTTE suicide cadres in Colombo. Mr. Ranasinghe had been interrogated over the news stroy under the heading “26 LTTE suicide cadres still in Colombo.” According Lanadeepa sources, the CID has also visited the writer of the article, Srinath Prasanna Jayasuriya, at his home in Chilaw and questioned him as well.

20. 18th June 2009  –           Journalist barred form covering ministerial visit

On 18th June 2009 North Ceylon Journalists’ Association (NCJA), accused government authorities in Jaffna for barring journalists from attending a high level government meeting held Thursday by Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse’s brother, Basil Rajapakse. Jaffna Government Agent (GA), when contacted by journalists seeking permission to cover the meeting, had said that journalists cannot be allowed to attend the meeting for security reasons, the report said.

21. 18th June 2009  –           Two Tamil journalists threatened

In third week of June Joseph and Lambert, two Tamil journalists working in Mannar town, were threatened and intimidated by security force personal over their right to enter Mannar hospital. Security forces personal took Joseph’s Camera without giving ay reason and later he was asked to collect it from the Police. Security force personal who visited one of the journalist’s houses put a pistol in to this mouth to intimidate him. Both journalists had complained this incident to the police. Police DIG and a Top army officer have promised to take action against errant officers.

MFSL information

22. 19th June 2009 –            Journalist Wamanan case sent to AG for ruling

On 18th June 2009 The Criminal Investigation Department (CID)  informed the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court that investigations have been concluded into the allegation made by Minister Mano Wijeratne that Arthur Wamanan, a journalist attached to the Sunday Leader newspaper, had demanded Rs.5 Million, over the phone, not to publish a news item pertaining to the Minister in that paper. Consequently, Arthur Wamanan was arrested and subsequently released on bail.The CID, after concluding its investigations, which took almost two years, submitted a report to the Magistrate’s Courts on 19th. Magistrate Harsha Sethunga, told Police to forward the report to the Attorney General in order to seek guidance on further action, if any.

23. 23thJune-          Lawyers withdraw form case filed by defence secretary

On 23rd June 2009 Lawyers for ‘The Sunday Leader’ withdrew   from appearing for a case filed against the newspaper by defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Mount Lavinia district court judge Mohamed Mackie took up the case that alleges articles that appeared in the newspaper, claiming irregularities in the purchase of MiG-27 fighter aircraft, were defamatory of the defence secretary. The petitioner is seeking Rs. 1000 million in damages. After the respondent’s lawyers announced their withdrawal from the case, the judge granted a 30 day period for the appointment of new lawyers. (

24. 23rd June 2009  –           Contempt of court against the Sunday Leader

On 23rd June 2009 Mount Lavinia Additional District Judge Macki Mohamed issued notice on the Leader Publications and two others, Lal Wickrematunga and journalist Fredrica Jansz, to appear in Court on July 9 and to show cause why they should not be dealt for contempt of Court. Senior Counsel Ali Sabry submitted that the counsel who appeared for late journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga and the Leader Publications on the last hearing date, gave an undertaking to Court that they will not publish any articles or any statements defamatory to Defence Secretary Rajapaksa in the future. Violating the undertaking given to Court on the last hearing date, the Leader Publication had published an article on May 25, 2009 defamatory to the Defence Secretary.

25. 23thJune 2009   –           Dissenting expats to be charged

Members of the Sri Lankan expatriate community who are engaged in activities detrimental to the sovereignty and dignity of the country would be severely dealt with, said Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama. He said the Foreign Ministry will implement a novel program to bring these unfaithful elements to book under the directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. “Our foreign missions have informed the Foreign Ministry that a large number of Sri Lankans are involved in disseminating various baseless and misleading news about Sri Lanka through various television and radio channels and websites” he said.

26. 24th June 2009  –           Astrologer arrested for prediction

On 24th June an astrologer who predicted drastic political changes during the coming months at a meeting at United National Party  headquarters, Siri Kotha recently has been taken in for questioning by the CID. Popular astrologer Chandrasiri Bandara was arrested after he made these predictions on June 18. Police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara said the astrologer had predicted that the present Prime Minister would be appointed President on September 9 and the opposition leader the Prime Minister. The SSP said the CID was questioning him to find out the basis for predicting such drastic changes.

27. 24th June 2009  –           Tamil female journalist abducted

On 24th June 2009 Tamil female journalist, Ms Krishni Kandasamy, was abducted by unidentified persons in a white van from Wattala in Colombo division, and was released later in the evening the same day in Kandy in the central province after being interrogated. She had been working for a leading Tamil daily published from Colombo, Virakesari, for 10 years, according to complaints lodged with the Wattala Police. Ms Krishni said she was also threatened earlier by unidentified persons. Krishni Ifham was working for several years at Express Newspapers Veerakesari as a crime reporter later she joined in 2006 the NGO called PANOS, which also provides a News Service. .

28. 25th June 2009  –  Jaffna newspapers burned

All the local newspapers of Jaffna that defied publishing an anonymous and defiling notice against the LTTE came under attack by an armed group in the early hours of Thursday. The notice was brought out in the name of ‘Tamil Front Protecting the Country’ allegedly linked to a paramilitary group operating with Colombo. Thousands of copies of the local newspapers, Valampuri, Uthayan and Thinakkural (Jaffna edition), were burnt down wholesale in huge flames by the armed group allegedly operated by the Sri Lankan military intelligence at Aanaippanthi and Kannathiddi junctions at 5:00 a.m. Thursday, while the newspapers were being taken for distribution. The distribution workers were also brutally attacked. ;

29. 25th June 2009 – Press complains council re-established

The main media organisations in Sri Lanka have urged the government not to re-establish Press Council with powers to fine and imprison print journalists and argued that self-regulation, introduced six years ago, is working. Seven media bodies, headed by the Editors’ Guild, have written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying media culture should not be based on charging, fining and jailing journalists. The Council was reactivated earlier this month by the government. Staffed with government appointees, it adjudicates complaints against newspapers and has the power to imprison and fine journalists. “Even a cursory glance at Sections 12, 15, 16 and 31 would make one realise the dangers that the democracy of this country would face in the event of full implementation of these sections which remained rather dormant ever since the introduction of the Press Council Act in 1973,” it said. –

(For more information see MFSL Note 13th May 2009)

30. 25th June 2009-             Speaker regrets repealing draconian law

On 25th June 2009 speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara  said Parliamentarians’ decision to repeal laws necessary to take punitive action against misbehaving journalists had been one of the most foolish moves on their part. He said that their decision to relinquish parliamentary powers had been wrong and it had caused an erosion of the supreme powers of the House.The Speaker made this observation during a cross-talk triggered by a statement by Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena. Abeywardena said that a Sinhala language newspaper published by a government controlled media institution had misreported what he had said at a press conference the previous day.

31. 25th June 2009  –           Police again fails to submit report on Lasantha killing

On 25th June 2009 when Wickrematunge’s murder trial was taken up  at the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate’s Court, the Mirihana Police failed to turn up in courts although they had been ordered to submit the investigation report. Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader that the investigation teams have not updated him on the present investigation progress and added that the investigation teams do not want to reveal the details to the media as it could hamper the ongoing investigation process. The murder trial of Wickrematunge will be taken up again on July 9.

32. 28th June 2009  –           Minister Mervyn attack SirasaTV

Sri Lanka Minister of Labour Mervin Silva grabbed the microphone from Sirasa TV station reporters and threw it on the ground at an event held in Bandaranayake Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), alleging that Sirasa TV station and its journalists are traitors of the country. The event was organized to felicitate the journalists who covered the Vanni battle along with Sri Lanka Army. Mervin Silva speaking at the event said that there was no second word that the journalists who worked hard to safeguard the sovereignty of the country should be honored. He added that the journalists of Sirasa TV station who had been working with the international community to degrade the self respect of the country and its independence do not deserve the honor.

33. 26th June 2009  –           Jaffna media gets last warning

An  unknown  group has threatened to kill anyone working for or distributing a Tamil nationalist newspaper Uthayan  in northern Sri Lanka, accusing the paper of supporting the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels. The group calling itself the Tamil Front Protecting the Country said in a note sent to newspaper dealers and obtained by The Associated Press that reporters and other staff, including the security guards, must quit the Uthayan newspaper by Tuesday. The note, which the group called a “final warning,” also warns traders against selling the paper. The newspaper is published on the northern Jaffna peninsula – the cultural capital of the island’s ethnic minority Tamils – and supports self-rule for Tamils.

34. 29th June 2009  –           Press council  committee member dropped on political reasons

On 19th June 2009 Mr. Janadasa Peris, a senior journalists and former chairman of government controlled newspaper institute “Lake House” was asked to resign from the  re established press council by the president  apparently  on political grounds.  Mr. Peries is a closet associate of former president Chandrika B. Kumaratunga. All appointments to the press council has to be made by the president  and this incident has happened at the first meeting press council had with the president.

Monthly report No 06; period covered June 2009

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