For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Press release/ 31 December 2010
Information reaching NfR from Sri Lanka shows that the reason behind the last minute blocking of access to media at the hearings of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) took place at the infamous Boosa detention camp on 30th December 2010, was to prevent the media access to the hearings of selected witnesses who were to give evidence on that day. NfR re-iterates its concern that censorship in any form will discredit the proceedings of the LLRC and negate the achievement of its objectives.
This again shows that the government does not wish to provide unrestricted media accesses to any reconciliation and accountability process. That is vital in order to bring out the voices heard and unheard by such initiatives and monitor the responses. The people have been denied the right to information on what transpired during the proceedings of the LLRC in Boosa.
Unspecified number of Tamil detainees are kept in the Boosa detention camp. There has been a number of allegations of torture and inhuman treatments of detainees in this camp. NfR feels strongly that all those detainees who wanted to give evidence at the LLRC should have been given a chance to place their grievances before it. Media has a right to monitor and report on the evidence they place unless the persons concerned had preferred to give evidence in camera.
According to Centre for Human Rights, a human rights organization in Colombo, journalists from the BBC, LAKBIMANEWS, Thinakural, Veerakesari, Reuters and Tamil Mirror had arrived at Boosa Detention Centre that morning having obtained permission from the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS). After waiting for nearly three hours these journalists had been told that they need approval from the Defence Ministry to cover the proceeding. Consequently they had return to Colombo disappointed.
The LLRC blocked international media from covering their proceedings in two previous occasions and on both those occasions hearings took place in the war affected Northern Province. On both those occasions it appears that evidence had immerged on abductions and killings of unarmed Tamils. On an another occasion a para-military group working with the government had threatened journalists who had gone to cover the proceedings.
Genuine reconciliation needs an open and transparent process. Closing the door to Media and denying opportunities to persons who want to be heard, will only exacerbate the situation making reconciliation and peaceful co-existence of the various communities in Sri Lanka more and more difficult.
NfR Sri Lanka