Police in Sri Lanka has visited a Tamil media office in Colombo twice within four days in a threatening manner which indicates renewed efforts by state intelligence to suppress journalists who expose ongoing violations.
On the 13th of July two police officers in uniform claiming to be from the community division of the Wellawatte (Colombo 5) police station visited the IBC TAMIL TV office in Wellawatte requesting personal details of its staff.
The visit was on the same day a news item published in a Sinhala ultra-nationalist daily carrying accusations against an unnamed “Tamil Tiger diaspora TV” that provides information to London on “protests against government, security forces activities in the north and allegations against the government by visiting UN officials”.
The story by the defence columnist of ‘Divaina’, Keerthi Warnakulasuriya, had also been reproduced by several Sinhala websites.
On Monday (17 July) two men in civvies claiming to be from police headquarters (who showed ID) visited the IBC office again asking for personal details of staff.
Upon inquiries from staff, the two said they are looking for a Tamil journalist called ‘Mano’. They were informed that IBC doesn’t have a staff member with that name.
The two men were requested to obtain any information regarding IBC TV and its staff from the government information department where all media institutions and journalists are registered.
The second visit came following an article by Mr Warnakulasuriya accusing IBC TAMIL TV as an “Eelam Diaspora” media organisation “that disseminates false information regarding Sri Lanka”. It went further to question Sinhala organisations for inviting IBC and Tamil journalists to a press briefing.
“Isn’t these parties coming to a press briefing a dangerous situation?” he asks in his regular weekly column.
The Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) see a concerted effort by Security forces aided by the Sinhala nationalist press to instill fear in Tamil journalists and media institutions who highlight ongoing violations in Sri Lanka particularly against Tamils.
Tamil media workers in the IBC office in Sinhala majority Colombo fear harassment and attacks by Sinhala extremists given the recent resurgence of Sinhala Buddhist violence against minorities. A vast majority of the staff are from the war torn north.
IBC TAMIL TV with its main office in London was launched by London Tamil Media in 2015.
It has bureaus in Colombo, Jaffna, Paris and Chennai.