Female Journalist Arrested at UNESCO Word Press Freedom Day Conference in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned over the decision by Sri Lankan authorities to arrest and remand a female journalist on suspicion of association with terrorist activities at a UNESCO conference on World Press Freedom Day, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

“The arrest of a journalist at an event designed to celebrate and promote freedom of the press, raises serious concerns about the independence of the media and their ability to move freely and perform their duties of reporting,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

Colombo Chief Magistrate, Kusala Weerawardana, remanded a female journalist who was arrested on suspicion at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference in Colombo on May 1, 2006.

Police told the court the case has been handed over to the National Intelligent Service and Terrorist Investigation Division to establish whether Sivaramya Sivanathan, a Tamil journalist, has links with terrorist organisations.

Police at the entrance of the conference allegedly questioned Sivanathan, a relief announcer for the state owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC). When she couldn't produce an invitation for the event, she was arrested, despite producing her SLBC identity card.

According to witnesses, a number of other journalists were able to enter the event without producing invitation cards.

“It is essential that all journalists are free to carry out their duties free from political intervention and discrimination”, said Warren.

“The IFJ calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to urgently review this incident and release Ms. Sivaramya Sivanathan if she is proven innocent,” said Warren.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries