The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the Government of Sri Lanka to uphold the legal rights of seven journalists who were taken in for questioning by Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) between March 6 and 8. The journalists were not permitted to notify their families of their whereabouts.
The Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, reported that some of the journalists, most of whom are associated with the news and features website www.outreachsl.com, were held incommunicado for hours.
On March 6, N. Jasiharan, the owner of E-Kwality Printers and a writer for the website, and his partner Valarmathi were arrested by TID officers. No clear reason was offered, FMM reported. Jasiharan’s laptop computer and printed material from the printing press were also taken.
The editor of www.outreachsl.com, freelance journalist J.S Tissainayagam, was detained on March 8 under emergency regulations for 30 days. TID officers had arrested him on the morning of March 7, and his family was not informed until the late evening. TID reportedly refused to give details on why he was being held.
Also on March 7, another reporter for the website, K. Wijesingha, and visual editor Udayanan were taken in for questioning and held incommunicado until later in the evening, FMM reported.
The editor of the Tamil language Sarinihar magazine, S. Sivakumar (alias Balasubramanium Wasanthan), who is also an FMM spokesman, was taken in for questioning by TID officers on March 8 and released later that night after recording a statement.
On March 8, a website cameraman, Ranga, was also taken in for questioning.
It was reported in local media that some of the journalists were being questioned about alleged connections to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and that TID would seek court orders to check the bank accounts of some of those arrested.
The IFJ supports the FMM in accepting that law enforcement agencies have a right to investigate leads in the public interest and take appropriate action as stipulated by the law. However, the IFJ urges that due process must be followed regarding the arrested journalists.
“Journalists, like all citizens, have the right to legal advice while in police custody. Their right to inform family and colleagues as to their location while being questioned must be observed, as must the presumption of innocence,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
The IFJ calls on Sri Lanka’s Government to comply with international human rights and legal instruments to ensure the protection of the rights of journalists and other citizens within the legal system.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries