Threats Against Exiled Journalist’s Family in Sri Lanka Must Cease

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is outraged

at continuing threats against the wife of journalist Gamini Pushpakumara, in

exile from Sri Lanka

since April after being dismissed as a producer with the state-owned Sri Lanka

Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) in January.

 

“The IFJ

calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to identify those responsible for threats

against Pushpakumara’s wife, Waruni Balasooriya, and to guarantee her safety,”

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said.

 

In July, the IFJ noted earlier

threats made to the life of Balasooriya, who remains in Sri Lanka.

Balasooriya lodged a complaint at a local police station, but by all accounts

it was not acted upon.

 

Balasooriya

has since shifted house for her own safety. However, on the evening of

September 2 she had two unidentified visitors who spoke menacingly and vowed to

find and kill Pushpakumara.

 

The two reportedly

referred to Pushpakumara as a “traitor” and a “Sinhala Tiger” – in reference to

the Tamil Tigers who were defeated in 2009 after a long civil war. He was

accused of sending video footage and photographs of the last phases of the war

to overseas media organisations with intent to entangle the Government of Sri Lanka in

war crimes trials.

 

The

threatening visitors accused Pushpakumara of acting in concert with General

Sarath Fonseka, who was commander of the Sri Lankan army in the last phase of

the war and challenged President Mahinda Rajapakse in presidential elections in

January. Fonseka was arrested shortly after he lost the election in a polarised

national vote, and recently stripped of his rank, pension and all benefits by a

military court which found him guilty of conduct unbecoming.

 

Pushpakumara’s

dismissal followed his leadership of a movement of SLRC staff demanding that

prescribed norms on fair coverage for all candidates be followed by the state

broadcaster, which was accused of tilting strongly toward the incumbent

president.

 

The IFJ

learns that Balasooriya has again complained to her local police station about

the latest threats to her life, and encountered an uncooperative attitude from officials.

 

“The safety

of Pushpakumara’s wife is a key indicator of the commitment of President

Rajapakse’s regime, now invested with a fresh mandate, to restore the civil

liberties that were seriously eroded during the civil war,” White said.

 

“Pushpakumara’s

actions as a leader of the program producers’ association in SLRC were in line with

prescribed norms of fairness in election coverage. Threats implying he was

involved in the discovery of visual evidence of atrocities by Sri Lankan armed

forces is consistent with a pattern of victimisation that began as retribution

for his stand on a matter of professional ethics.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the IFJ on Twitter:

@ifjasiapacific