For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that Mr. Krishan Jeewaka Jayaruk of Matara District is the regional news reporter of the Sinhala medium ‘Lankadeepa’ and English medium ‘Daily Mirror’ news papers, both are the of the most widely circulated newspapers in the island. On 1 September 2011 he received death threats from one of the leading politicians of the ruling party. Though Jayaruk made a complaint to the Headquarters Police Station of Matara regarding the incident the police failed to make an investigation. Despite requests made by several media organisations the law enforcement agencies turn a blind eye thereby ensuring impunity to the perpetrators. The victim, his relatives and the society as a whole are witnesses to the inaction of the police. This case is yet another illustration of the exceptional danger faced by journalists and members of the media.
According to the information that the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) received Mr. Krishan Jeewaka Jayaruk of Matara District is the regional news reporter of the Sinhala medium ‘Lankadeepa’ and English medium ‘Daily Mirror’ newspapers, both are the most circulated newspapers in the island.
On 1 September 2011, Jayaruk was allegedly been threatened by a ruling party, United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Member of the Southern Provincial Council, Aruna Gunaratne. Jayaruk was verbally abused with obscene language and threatened with death if he further continued with his journalistic work regarding the provincial councilor.
On the same day, Jayaruk received a phone call from Mr. Gunaratne on his mobile +94 77 3679348 telling him that he would be killed if any further news stories regarding the provincial council member were published. Mr. Gunaratne had inquired from Jayaruk as to why he did not speak to him about the matter before filing the story.
Following the incident Jayaruk had lodged a complaint regarding the death threat with the Matara Headquarters Police Station. The reference number of the complaint filed was MCR 4006 /11. He had also recorded the conversation he had with the provincial council member for his own safety.
Jayaruk states that he made a news report to his paper regarding an incident of burglary which happened at the house of a provincial councilor. He further states that reporting and making a news article following such as incident was well within his mandate and while making his report he followed all journalistic ethics and conduct. He has paid his full attention to the growing crime rate in the society and how it came to be a threat to even senior politicians.
Considering the ongoing intimidation and threats to the lives of journalists there were several protests organised by journalists Island-wide in last few months. Regarding the threats to Jayaruk, members of nine media associations staged a protest in front of Matara main bus stand on 3 September.
In the protest journalists and media workers shouted slogans “we will write even our hands are chopped off.”
The journalists further called upon the government to punish those who are responsible for making threats and says that this exemplifies the intimidation of journalists by members’ of the ruling party.
Even after one month no one has been arrested and produced before the court regarding the making of death threats. The request to have prompt and efficient investigations and the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators has been continuously ignored by the law enforcement agencies.
This is another incident against a journalist who is continuously facing enormous threats to life in the pursuit of their professional activities in the recent past. Several journalists have been killed, disappeared and harassed in different parts of the country in recent years, the incidents of Lasantha Wickrematunga and Prageeth Eknaligoda being the most prominent.
Civil society organizations, human rights groups and intellectuals continuously raise their voices against the government asking them to take worthwhile and coherent steps to investigate these crimes and take the alleged perpetrators before courts of law to prevent the repeat of such gross human rights violations.
Though certain suspects were arrested no positive steps to prosecute them have been taken.
The normal practice of the Sri Lankan police is to continuously delay investigations in the hopes that public interest will wane. If this does not happen then what comes next is the abandonment of the procedures in the administration of criminal justice system as has been seen in the recent past.