Sri Lanka: Tamil journalist targeted with repeated interrogations

On September 14, Tamil journalist and union treasurer Punniyamoorthy Sasikaran was the subject of an interrogation by Sri Lankan police, the third occasion he has been questioned in the past three months. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Sri Lanka affiliate, the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), condemns these repeated interrogations by local authorities that work to constrain press freedom by enforce self-censorship.

Tamil journalists Punniyamoorthy Sasikaran was interrogated by Sri Lankan police on September 14. Credit: Tamil Guardian

Sasikaran, a freelance journalist and treasurer of the Batticaloa District Tamil Journalists Association, was interrogated by Sri Lanka's Special Crime Prevention Unit of the Batticaloa Senior Superintendent of Police's office for over an hour. The justification for his examination has not been disclosed.

This new investigation follows Sasikaran’s questioning by Sri Lankan authorities in July and August of this year. On August 27, Sasikaran was probed for two hours, due to purported links to an event in January that paid tribute to an Indian fisherman, who died in 2020.

In July, another Batticaloa-based Tamil journalist, Selvakumar Nilanthan, was interrogated by Sri Lankan’s Terrorism Investigation Division. There are concerns that Tamil journalists have been targeted unduly.

Sri Lanka currently ranks 127th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. The IFJ’s South Asia Press Freedom Report 2020-21 detailed ongoing incidents of interrogation, intimidation and arrests of journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka.  

The FMETU said: “We again urge the Inspector General of Police to take immediate action to prevent such acts of intimidation of journalists and obstructions to their duties and to create the necessary environment for them to carry out their duties freely.”

The IFJ said: “The regular intimidation tactics employed by Sri Lankan police are highly concerning, stifling press freedom and threatening journalist safety. The IFJ condemns the arbitrary investigation of journalists by authorities.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram