Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Sri Lankan authorities to punish those responsible for recent acts of violence and harassment of journalists and to ensure that the police stop harassing and intimidating reporters covering the problems that the Tamil minority still endure ten years after the end of the civil war.
RSF said that the 27 May violence against Kanapathipillai Kumanan, a journalist working for the Tamil daily Virakesari, was the third reported attack on a journalist of Tamil origin since the start of the year.
Kumanan was working on a story about a Hindu temple in the district of Mullaitivu, on Sri Lanka’s northeastern coast, when a police officer hit him, threw his camera to the ground and threatened him with worse violence if he reported this attack, RSF said.
The focus of a conflict between the Hinduist Tamil minority and the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority, the temple has been occupied for the past few years by Buddhist monks, who changed its name and recently installed CCTV cameras in order to control access.
Kumanan had gone there to report on the failure to comply with a recent court ruling in favour of Hinduists who said they were being prevented from worshipping there.
“We call on the Sri Lankan authorities to not let this unacceptable act of violence against Virakesari’s reporter go unpunished,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Allowing journalists to investigate controversial subjects freely is the best way to defuse tension. Ten years after the end of the civil war, the resurgence in attacks by the security forces against Tamil reporters recalls the worst times in Sri Lanka’s history, when it was one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.”
The civil war finally ended in May 2009 with the Tamil Tiger separatist rebellion being crushed militarily. This has left deep scars in the collective memory and attempts by journalists to cover the demands of the Tamil minority’s representatives are being met with acts of intimidation from the security forces. (Colombo Gazette)