The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Free Media Movement (FMM) condemn the heavy-handed action of Sri Lankan police in charging a freelance journalist on Wednesday, April 8 in Jaffna. The IFJ said this attack on press freedom appeared to be aimed at intimidatintg the media.
According Jaffna based newspaper Uthayan, the journalist N Logathayalan who writes for the newspaper was arrested and charged following a report he authored about the assault of a schoolgirl by Sri Lankan police officers in Jaffna in Sri Lanka’s north. Logathayalan was taken into custody and produced before the Point Pedro Court where the Sri Lankan police requested to extend custody until April 17. This was granted, but the journalist was subsequently released on April 9 on personal bail. He is due to appear in court on May 29.
It was not immediately clear what the charges were against Logathayalan though it is understood to be a defamation-related charge. The local Sunday Times reported that Logathayalan was charged with “providing false information for the publication of a news item”.
In a separate event, three Jaffna-based journalists were intimidated by two police officers on Tuesday, April 7. T Vinojith of Thinakural daily, T Pirgatheepan a Colombo-based journalist and freelance-journalist Majorapiriyan were stopped by two drunken officers in police jerseys and were asked to show their press cards. When the journalists questioned the officers, they produced knives and chased the journalists until they reached the Jaffna police station.
The FMM said: “The FMM considered both these acts unacceptable. The FMM urges the government to investigate these incidents at the same time to implement structural and policy changes to avoid such incidents in the future.”
The IFJ said: “This is clearly an attempt by police to intimidate journalists in Jaffna and shows the dismal status of press freedom in Sri Lanka even after the promise by the new government to improve safety situation”
“President Sirisena has made commitments to the media and the IFJ to restore press freedom in Sri Lanka. That message is clearly slow in filtrating to the police in the country’s north and we strongly condemn these ongoing acts of intimidation and the recent arrest of N Logathayalan for alleged defamation-related charges. We call on all facts of this case to be made available to the media and reinforce that an arrest over alleged defamation is an inappropriate response by police.”
The IFJ urges the government of Sri Lanka to immediately investigate the incidents as per its commitment for press freedom.”