For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
She is one of a group of 19 Sri Lankan refugees who are under threat of being deported from the UAE by 11 April.
“In the light of recent developments and the appalling climate for the Tamil media in Sri Lanka, we are extremely worried about the consequences of a forced return for Rathimohan Lokini’s safety,” Reporters Without Borders and JDS said.
“Our concern is heightened by the fact that the Sri Lankan state TV stationITN has reported that they could be sent back, so the government is aware of the possibility and Lokini would be exposed to serious reprisals.
“We therefore urge the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to do everything possible to prevent this expulsion, which would constitute a total violation of international law and the right protection that the UN Refugee Agency granted to Lokini.”
Lokini began working as a presenter for National Television of Tamil Eelam(NTT) in June 2006. This station covered the civil war in the areas controlled by the rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), broadcasting its programmes both locally and internationally.
Part of her job was to present reports on clashes between government forces and the LTTE rebels. Her visibility exposed her to a considerable risk of reprisals by government security forces and pro-government militia.
As her result, she resigned from her post and left the rebel area in December 2008. Fearing that she could be recognized and become the target of reprisals by members of the Sri Lankan armed forces as the civil war escalated, she finally left Sri Lanka in April 2009.
According to the tally kept by Reporters Without Borders and JDS, five radio and TV journalists working in Tamil regions of Sri Lanka were murdered from2007 to 2009.
Lokini’s proposed deportation comes at a time of growing harassment of Tamil-language journalists in Sri Lanka. The BBC’s Tamil-language service was repeatedly censored in March. After armed intruders attacked the premises of the daily Uthayan in the northern city of Kilinochchi on 3 April, four employees had to be hospitalized and two are still in a critical condition. The attackers have not been arrested.