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CPJ calls on Sri Lankan police to stop harassment of Batticaloa journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have called on Sri Lankan police to stop harassing Batticaloa journalist Punniyamoorthy Sasikaran and "let him work without interference." 

Sasikaran, a Tamil journalist and treasurer of the Batticaloa District Tamil Journalists Association Union, was interrogated by Sri Lanka's Special Crime Prevention Unit earlier this week. 

Sasikaran was questioned for two hours by the police for allegedly organising an event in January, commemorating the deaths of Indian fishermen who died last year at sea. 

“It’s time for Sri Lanka’s police to call off their repeated harassing interrogations of journalist Punniyamoorthy Sasikaran and allow him to go about his work without interference,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in a statement. 

“Police should not be using intimidation tactics to prevent journalist from covering protests by Sri Lanka’s Tamil community, or any others,” Butler added. 

For decades, Tamil journalists have been persecuted disproportionately for reporting on human rights abuses, militarisation and corruption. Despite several attacks and killings of journalists, Sri Lanka has failed to investigate and effectively prosecute those responsible. Instead, the state has perpetuated impunity on the island and continued to silence journalists and suppress press freedom. Sri Lanka is currently ranked 127th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. 

Since the Rajapaksa regime came in to power in 2019, there has been a new wave of intimidation, threats and harrassment of journalists. 

Last month, Batticaloa-based Tamil journalist Selvakumar Nilanthan was interrogated by Sri Lanka’s Terrorism Investigation Division (TID).   Nilanthan, who is also the secretary of the Batticaloa Tamil Journalists Association, was summoned to the Batticaloa TID where his statement were taken following intense interrogation lasting around three hours. He was asked whether he had any links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and was questioned extensively about his work. 

See CPJ's full statement here


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