The Committee for the Protection of Journalists – CPJ has released a list of 19 ‘journalists’ it claims to have been killed since 1992 in Sri Lanka. CPJ says that 1008 journalists were killed since 1992. It includes 151 in Iraq, 30 in India, 73 in the Philippines, 27 in Brazil, 17 in Tajikistan, 16 in Sierra Leone and 53 in Pakistan, while the Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka says 41 media activists were killed.
2012 marked a horrific year for journalists and media workers across Asia with 30 killings. Half of those killed were in Pakistan and the Philippines with 1 in Sri Lanka. There were 23 killings in Africa, 23 in the Americas, 29 in the Asia-Pacific, 2 in Europe, 43 in the Middle East and the Arab world. The CPJ says 39 journalists were killed worldwide in 2013 with none in Sri Lanka. In the last 20 years more than 2000 journalists and media staff had been killed in the line of duty.
In the fog of war many journalists are killed, injured or harassed in war zones, either targeted by one side or another, or caught in the crossfire of violence. Others are the victims of premeditated assault and intimidation by criminals and terrorists or by agencies of the state. There will, inevitably, be accidents, no matter how much care is taken.
Journalists in Sri Lanka, represented by a coalition of seven different organisations, met with the delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanetham Pillay, during her week-long visit to the country. The organisations that signed the petition and were represented at the meeting with the UN delegation were the Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka (FMM), the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), the Federation of Media Employees’ Trade Union (FMETU), Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) – Sri Lanka Chapter and Media Movement for Democracy (MMD), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its partner organisation, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS). The list by journalists’ organisations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was echoed faithfully by her, that over 30 journalists had been killed in Sri Lanka since 2005.
A majority of the notable figures on this list were mostly of LTTE cadres directly involved with LTTE publications; some were killed by the LTTE and on the other hand, it has also been established that there were journalists who wrote for EPDP sponsored publications that were killed by the LTTE. During the Sri Lankan Civil War militant groups and paramilitary groups were accused of assassinating many public figures on suspicion of being sympathisers or informants, in retaliation for killings and attacks, to eliminate competition from rival groups, or to stifle dissent.
These journalists think that the grass is greener on the other side and some of these exiled journalists escaped for a better life in the West knowing that the westerners can be duped with their invented sob-stories. They will soon realise that they had a better life in SL without having to do menial jobs to keep them going. These so called exiled journalists rely and depend on Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch etc. for their survival. Lokeesan a former Tamil Net Reporter working in Vanni until April 20, 2009, escaped from Sri Lanka and surfaced in Norway in 2011.Tamil Net is owned by the same Tamil in Bethesda, Maryland who owns Tamils Against Genocide and a senior official of TRO, the banned Tamil NGO. Lokeesan was recently highlighted in the documentary of exiled journalists. The intriguing part is why he had remained silent all this while by not providing the UN and UNHRC with eyewitness testimony and evidence.
“In the fog of war many journalists are killed, injured or harassed in war zones, either targeted by one side or another, or caught in the crossfire of violence”
Frances Harrison a former BBC Correspondent in Sri Lanka, author of ‘Still Counting the Dead’ Channel is now a close friend of the Nimalarajan family. Channel-4 journalist Callum Macrae from the UK Channel 4 News, produced a documentary highlighting so called ‘war crimes’ in Sri Lanka during the war in 2009. In 2011 he directed another documentary titled, ‘Sri Lanka’s killing fields’. Macrae produced these documentaries calling the ‘international community’ for an independent investigation on Sri Lanka. Recently, he had expressed his deep regret that the CHOGM was to be held in Sri Lanka and that President Rajapaksa would head the CHOGM for the next two years. Marie Colvin killed in February 22, 2012, in Homs, Syria during the shelling of the city by Syrian forces, was a LTTE-friendly war journalist and had known Nadesan and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the Tigers’ peace secretariat. She was smuggled into rebel territory in 2001 and sustained injuries on April 17 on returning to government territory, after being hit by a grenade in a skirmish between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil separatists. These are some of the International journalists that demonise Sri Lanka and show themselves as the embodiment of absolute goodness.
Tamils and the Sinhalese lived in amity in Sri Lanka and had been having a terrorist problem created by communalists from both sides. The Sri Lankan Civil War was an intermittent conflict between 1983 and 2009 predominantly between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The actual conflict is between the Tamil Diaspora and Lanka.
The Tamil Tigers no longer have the ability to use fear to silence their critics, but their supporters in the Diaspora still to try to intimidate Tamil journalists who express their views with too much freedom. On the Internet, websites that carry LTTE propaganda say nothing about its defeat or its past crimes against civilians.
There are credible allegations that the LTTE abducted child soldiers, murdered civilians, used suicide bombers against civilian targets and contributed to the death-count of the final offensive by refusing to allow trapped Tamils to leave the war zone and using them as human shields. The civil war has caused significant harm to the population and economy of the country, as well as leading to the ban of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation in 32 countries including the United States, Australia, the countries of the European Union and Canada.
“These journalists think that the grass is greener on the other side and some of these exiled journalists escaped for a better life in the West knowing that the westerners can be duped with their invented sob-stories”
The issue of abuses against journalists and media workers that remain uninvestigated and unpunished is also an important one to be addressed. The curtailment of their journalistic contribution deprives society as a whole.
Within the post war atmosphere in Sri Lanka, making the younger generation of the country aware of pluralism, ethnic harmony and peace have become a timely concern. (Daily Mirror)