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Reporters Without Borders calls on Sri Lanka to drop 'Kafkaesque' charges against detained Tamil journalist

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on Sri Lanka's prosecutors to drop the absurd terrorism charges against a Tamil journalist detained under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). 

Murugupillai Kokulathasan, locally known as Kokul, a photographer attached to Batticaloa Press Club was arrested on November 28, 2020, by the Sri Lankan Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) over allegations that he had published pictures of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on Facebook. 

"Murugupillai Kokulathasan's arrest and continuing detention on a Kafkaesque terrorism charge clearly constitutes a press freedom violation," said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.

"We urge the attorney general of Sri Lanka, Dappula de Livera, to order his immediate and unconditional release. The security forces must stop harassing all journalists who refer to the Tamil issue, whether directly or indirectly," he added. 

Sri Lanka's much criticised PTA has resulted in countless arbitary detentions disproportionately affecting Tamils and has facilitated systematic torture of detainees. Despite commitments to the United Nations of Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the European Union to repeal the draconian law, the Rajapaksa regime has stated that it will retain it.  

In January 2020, Tamil journalists in Batticaloa were sent death threats with leaflets of their photographs threatening that they would be executed. 

The leaflets targetted a few journalists who held a commemoration event for the murdered Sinhala journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge. The leaflet circled their photographs and warned in Tamil that "they will soon be given death punishment by us."  

Leaflet found pushed through door of Batticaloa Press Club office

There has been an alarming rise in the surveillance, threats and intimidation of journalists in the North-East since credibly accused war criminal Gotabaya Rajapaksa took office as Sri Lanka's president in 2019. 

Sri Lanka is currently ranked 127th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index. 


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