For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
(Photo: Motorbike and Newspapers set on fire)
Networking for Rights in Sri Lanka Press release/ 10 January 2012
Sri Lanka; Newspapers burned in Jaffna; Armed political thugs intimidate peaceful protest in Colombo
NfR, Networking for Rights in SriLanka, a net work of Sri Lankan journalists and Human rights defenders, expressed its strongest condemnation of blatant violations of people’s right to free expression reported form Jaffna and Colombo on today, 10th January 2013.
In Jaffna Uthayan newspaper came under attack early this morning. Mr. Nageswaran Piratheepan one of its delivery agent was followed by four ‘unidentified persons’ riding two motor bicycles. Mr. Piratheepan was stopped, beaten with poles, his motorbike and the newspapers ere set on fire by them.. Mr. Piratheepan has been admitted to the Jaffna teaching hospital and reports say that one of his arms is broken in the assault. The assault took place at 5.30 AM at Maalu junction Jaffna.
According to the Uthayan newspaper another delivery employee was chased by the ‘unidentified persons’ at the same place and he had to seek protection at the Valvettithurai police station.
Uthayan newspaper has been under continuous threats and intimidation for years because of its uncompromising stand with regard to the military – political establishment of the government. This attack is one more step in the ongoing suppression of Tamil peoples right to free speech in general and attempts to tame the Uthayan news paper.
In Colombo state sponsored thugs surrounded the lawyers led peaceful protest against the unconstitutional impeachment process. The impeachment process was initiated by ruling party in order to expel the Chief Justice and to bring the judiciary under its control. The independence of judiciary has become the last frontier of battle between democratic governance and Rajapkahsa autocracy in Sri Lanka today.
Thugs accompanied by ruling party politicians, armed with clubs and rocks had gathered in front of the Hulftsdorp court complex, where the lawyers led protest was taking place. They had taken the law onto their hands and forced the police to be mere onlookers. On several occasions police blocked the lawyers march and roads were virtually closed. Meanwhile state media, which are politically controlled by the ruling party, has unleashed a campaign of vilification against the leading lawyers who are in front of the ‘defend independence of judiciary’ movement. Leading human rights lawyers are being branded as supporters of terrorism by ruling politicians and state media.
Vehemently condemning the suppression of peoples’ right to speech and right to peaceful assembly in Sri Lanka today, NfR warns that Sri Lanka is past becoming a lawless state where fundamental rights of its people are completely trampled under political – military boots of the ruling regime. If this is not reversed Sri Lanka is destined to become a failed and autocratic state in the near future.
At this hour of need NfR urge international human rights movement to stand together with Sri Lankan political and civil societywho are fighting to safeguard what ever remaining space to exercise peoples inalienable rights.