Tamil Guardian journalist Kanapathipillai Kumanan was summoned to Mullaitivu police station this morning to give a statement on the harassment he faced by Sri Lankan navy and police officers at a land grab protest earlier this year.
In June, Kumanan attempted to cover a protest in Vattuvakkal against the expansion of the Gotabaya naval camp but was harrassed in an attempt to block his coverage of the demonstration against military land grabs.
Photograph: Vattuvakkal land grab protest in June 2022
As Kumanan began taking photographs to report on the protest, a naval officer approached him and threatened him to stop taking photographs of the demonstration. Several Sri Lankan police officers also came up to the journalist and attempted to forcibly seize his official media card.
On the day of the incident, Muthusamy Mukunthagajan, the United National Party (UNP) youth team leader for Mullaitivu sent a letter to the prime minister, demanding an investigation into the incident. On December 19, Mukunthagajan was summoned to Mullaitivu police for questioning. Earlier this month, Kumanan also received a summons ordering him to visit the police station for an inquiry.
Kumanan spent three hours at the police station this morning to record his statement and also handed over his video footage from the protest.
Tamil journalists face routine harassment and reprisals for reporting on issues faced by Tamils in the North-East. They have frequently found themselves targeted with surveillance, threats, acts of violence, and even death. According to Together Against Genocide, from 2004 to 2009, over 48 journalists and media workers were reported killed, 41 of whom were Tamil.
Sri Lanka dropped 19 places in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index and is currently 146th out of 180 countries.