For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Nirmala Kannangara/Lanka Standard
My photographer and I who were in Mullaitivu on Wednesday and Thursday were stopped from entering the Suriyapuram camp in Nandikadal by the army officers on guard. This was the camp where the last batch of IDPs from the Manik Farm was brought to although the government claimed they were re-settled in their villages.
Not only did they stop us from entering the Suriyapuram camp, they threatened us not to write anything detrimental to them.
One of the army officers who were inside the makeshift camp shouted at me to leave the area immediately and warned me not to write anything against the camp and the IDP grievances but to ‘mind my own business’.
“You people are paid by the NGOs and what ever they ask, you are prepared to dance to their tunes. Journalists job is the worst found in this country. They are trying to make a living from reporting detrimental issues, which is not right. Get out from here if not we know what to do,” he warned.
Meanwhile my photographer took out his camera and captured a series of photographs as the threats were being made.
Realizing they were now on camera more than 15 army personnel surrounded our photographer armed with assault riffles pointing at him, he was manhandled and attempts were made to pull his camera. However he was brave enough to stand by his feet firm shouting ‘if my camera is taken I will give wide publicity to this harassment over the independent media and see what will happen next,” he said.
Even the driver of our vehicle was not spared. He was not allowed to turn the vehicle to go back but forced to reverse to the main road which was quite a long distance. Meanwhile seeing the danger we were all in at the moment I decided to have the pictures deleted and on my request, our photographer deleted the pictures in front of these army men so they would be satisfied and feel less threatened. Meanwhile they also wanted him to delete the pictures he has taken earlier to which he did not heed.