For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
23 Aug 2010.
Networking for Rights wishes to express serious concern at the continued harassment and intimidation of the non-state TV network MTV/MBC, popularly known as Sirara, by various representatives of the government.
Speaking to the press on August 19, media minister Keheliya Rambukwella, alluded to the network as having propped up the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).”What ethics do the Media which propped the LTTE know? -Media Minister asks in fury”
He was replying to questions regarding an incident where two journalists working for Sirasa were forced off the bus taking a posse of reporters to Hambantota, to cover the opening of a new port on August 18th. The two journalists were amongst a group of media persons invited by the Government Information Department to cover the ceremony, and had been taken off the bus carrying them to the venue, at Homagama, a suburb in Colombo, reportedly on the orders of the Presidential Security Division (PSD).
On 14th August former minister Mervyn Silva, who is notorious for his anti media violence publicly threatened the net work stating ” I will teach a lesson to Sirasa” and used the derogatory term ‘paraya’ (cur) when referring to Sirasa TV network owners.
Probably the most popular in the country, the network and it journalists have been threatened on numerous occassions in the past. On January 6, 2009 its operational headquarters in Depanama, Pannipitiya came under an arson attack. To date there has been little progress in the police investigation into the incident. The networks’ head office in Union Place, in the heart of Colombo was attacked on March 22, 2010, by a gang that is alleged to have arrived in state owned buses. The police was severely criticised by the courts for its biased behaviour in this incident which took place two weeks before the general election.
The network which operates several TV and Radio stations is considered the only electronic media which offers space for opposition and critical views.
NfR voices its strongest concern that media independent of direct and indirect government control are continuously intimidated and threatened in Sri Lanka for providing space for critical and opposition news and views. Post war Sri Lanka needs to encourage independent media in order to make sure all voices of all peoples are heard loud and clear. To achieve peace and reconciliation people should feel that they are free to speak up regarding their grievances and aspirations. Burning , closing and intimidating media institutions are symbol of suppressed society.
If genuine peace and reconciliation is to be achieved in post-war Sri Lanka it is critical that all voices be heard. The continued intimidation of those who oppose the government, and suppressing the right to free expression through violence and verbal threats to independent media outlets is a clear sign that Sri Lanka is well on its way to a dictatorship.
NfR urges all democratic forces to band together and prevent further erosion of the rights of all Sri Lankans’ and their right to free expression.
Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka
Postal Address: NfR Sri Lanka, C/O 18953, Sherman way,#5,Reseda,CA91335,USA
Steering committee : Iqbal MCM ( The Neterlands), Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Saravanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan (UK) Padmi Layange (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)