The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka’s decision to award compensation to Sivanathan Sivaramya, a Tamil journalist arrested in May last year on suspicion of being involved in a terrorist activity aiming to kill a government minister.
According to an IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Supreme Court on July 16 ordered two police officers to pay fifty thousand Sri Lankan Rupees ($US 446) to Sivaramya, a relief announcer for the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) after ruling that her five-day detention was illegal.
IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said the decision was a step forward in the fight for freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.
“The Supreme Court has recognised the unacceptable treatment of Tamil journalists with this ruling,” Park said.
“Although the compensation payment is small, the IFJ hopes this decision will set a precedent to dissuade authorities from further discrimination towards journalists,” she said.
Arrested on May 1, 2006, at a world press freedom day conference organised by UNESCO, Sivaramya was accused of attempting to murder a minister despite producing evidence that she, as an employee of the SLBC, was attending the conference as a journalist.
Sivaramya filed a human rights petition at the Supreme Court after police withdrew the case due to lack of evidence on June 2, 2007.
“Unfortunately monetary compensation cannot mend Sivaramya’s reputation, which has undoubtedly been marred by accusations of terrorism,” Park said.
“The IFJ urges those in the media who had depicted Sivaramya as a terrorist to verify their reports and that those allegations are false. This is the only way to achieve a free and accountable media for the Sri Lankan people,” she said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries