Threats Increase Concerns for Detained Media Worker and Family in Sri Lanka

 

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) holds grave fears for the safety of detained

Tamil media worker N. Jesiharan and his family in Sri Lanka after the family received

threats and demands for ransom in return for Jesiharan’s safety while in

detention.

 

The IFJ appeals to Sri Lanka’s

Minister for Human Rights and Disaster Management, Mahinda Samarasinghe, to

honour a commitment he made to assure Jesiharan of protection while in custody.

 

Jesiharan is currently on trial on

charges laid under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

 

According to the Free Media

Movement (FMM),

an IFJ affiliate, Jesiharan’s family

in a remote village in the volatile Batticoloa District, in Sri Lanka’s east, reported

receiving three threatening phone calls on November 25 and 26. The caller

demanded a ransom of Rs100,000 (about $US920) to keep Jesiharan alive, the FMM

reports.

 

The family lodged a complaint with

the Kalavanchikudi police station. However, the duty police officer told the FMM the police could not take action because the

caller’s number could not be identified.

 

Jesiharan,

the owner of E-Kwality Printers, and

his partner Valarmathi were detained by the Terrorist Investigation Division

(TID) of the Sri Lankan police in March, along with senior Tamil journalist J.S.

Tissainayagam.

 

After being held for more than 150

days without charge, all three were indicted

on August 25 under the PTA, and are now on trial. The charges refer to the

content of Tissainayagam’s

journalistic work.

 

Jesiharan

and Tissainayagam were unexpectedly moved

from a remand prison to the notoriously violent Magazine Prison in Colombo following a visit

from Samarasinghe on November 17. Samarasinghe had promised to improve their conditions

of detention.

 

After local

and international press freedom groups expressed extreme concern about the move,

two representatives from the Human Rights and Disaster Management Ministry reportedly

visited the two men in prison and confirmed that they were not being held with

other prisoners.

 

“The threats

made to Jesiharan’s family make it even more imperative that Sri Lanka’s

Government and authorities fulfill their responsibility to ensure no harm comes

to Jesiharan, Valarmathi and Tissainayagam, nor to their families” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

 

The IFJ

joins the FMM in calling on Minister

Samarasinghe to increase security for all three, and to investigate fully the

threats against Jesiharan’s family and to ensure the perpetrator of the threats

is brought to justice.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide