Facebook icon
Twitter icon
e-mail icon

Militarization in Sri Lanka

Article Author: 

More than two hundred journalists, trade union workers demonstrated at the Fort Railway Station in central Colombo on February 6 to condemn the growing harassment and intimidation of the media and left wing activists through killings, abductions and death threats.

On the Feb 5, 2007, the Sri Lankan army intelligence kidnapped Mr. Senaviratna, Mr. Sisira and Mr. Serasinghe. The first two are trade union activists. Mr. Serasinghe is the owner of a typesetting shop and is a left wing activist.

Mr Senaviratna and Mr Serasinghe were abducted at work; Mr Sisira was abducted at home. There was no warning; they were not read their rights; they were simply taken away.

A 'confession' was forced; they were forced to confess their involvement with the recent bombings in the south of Sri Lanka; they were forced to confess to links with the LTTE.

Through such forced 'confessions', the Sri Lankan state is trying to destroy all left wing and working class activism and to criminalise left wing activists in the popular press.

As President Mahinda Rajapakse has intensified the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), his government and the military have imposed what amounts to a regime of de facto censorship.

In December, Rajapakse reintroduced and extended the notorious Prevention and Prohibition of Terrorist Activities legislation that allows for the lengthy detention without trial of alleged "terrorists". New regulations have extended the law to allow for the prosecution of anyone, including journalists and media organisations, on the vague charge of "supporting" terrorism.

President Rajapakse, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse and army chief Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka have called meetings of media representatives on several occasions to warn them against criticising the war on the grounds that it will affect national security and the morale of the security forces.

There is little doubt that many of the attacks on journalists and left wing activists have been carried out either by the security forces or associated chauvinist thugs.

For the most part, the Sri Lankan media establishment has lined up behind the renewed civil war and acts as little more than a mouthpiece for the government's chauvinist propaganda.

Rajapakse is distinctly nervous that any critical reporting of the war, rampant official corruption, worsening living standards and attacks on democratic rights will only inflame popular discontent, including in the military's ranks.

That is the reason for the escalating crackdown on the media and left wing activism.

We need your support

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Tamil journalists are particularly at threat, with at least 41 media workers known to have been killed by the Sri Lankan state or its paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

Despite the risks, our team on the ground remain committed to providing detailed and accurate reporting of developments in the Tamil homeland, across the island and around the world, as well as providing expert analysis and insight from the Tamil point of view

We need your support in keeping our journalism going. Support our work today.