A Tamil journalist was intimidated and harassed by three Sri Lankan Forest Department officials in Mullaitivu on 27th February.
Tamil Guardian correspondent Kanapathipillai Kumanan, who went to report on a Tamil landowner dispute in Thannimurippu, Mullaitivu was threatened and obstructed from doing his job by Forest Department officers, last month.
The officers took photographs and harassed him for his personal information, even though he was only in a nearby road to the land being disputed. Kumanan questioned the officers why he was stopped and subject to the intimidation. “Why is the department asking me for such information? I did not trespass in the forest to collect news?”
Despite identifying himself as a journalist, officials obstructed his work covering a local incident where a Buddhist monk accompanied by local Sri Lankan police, threatened and banned a Tamil villager from clearing his own farmland. The Buddhist monk insisted the land did not actually belong to the Tamil villager and that he must withdraw himself from the land that he claimed as ‘Buddhist land’.
Kumanan highlighted that there has already been similar incidents of hostility when journalists choose to report on issues of illegal logging and land disputes. He was attacked along with a fellow journalist for reporting on illegal logging and timber smugglers, which involved the Forest Department and the case is still being heard in court.
Media repression in the North-East has escalated since the appointment of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s president in 2019, with an increase in incidents of Tamil journalists facing state surveillance, intimidation and violence.