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Sri Lankan film director assaulted by filmmakers' group in Madurai

(FMM/IFEX) - On 25 March 2008, a Sri Lankan film director, Thushara Peiris, was assaulted and injured in Kalaignar Karunanidhi Nagar, a suburb of the city of Madurai, by a group of individuals who identified themselves as members of the Tamil Nadu Film Directors' Association. Peiris was in Madurai to work on a Tamil-language copy of his film "Prabhakaran", which has not yet been released. According to the film's producer, Saman Thanthirige, the assailants said the film was unfair to Tamils; one of the assailants also warned they would not allow other films to enter the Indian film market. Thanthirige told FMM that Peiris was injured in the attack. Thanthirige added that in view of the fact that the film has not been publicly screened yet, he doubted that the assailants were Tamil Tigers or their supporters.

Peiris returned to Sri Lanka after being rescued by the Indian authorities. However, the master tape of the film remains at the studio in Madurai. FMM has requested the intervention of the Indian authorities to ensure that the tape is returned to Peiris.

The following is a 30 March 2008 FMM letter to the Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka:

Hon. Alok Prasad
His Excellency the High Commissioner
Indian High Commission
Colombo 2, Sri Lanka.

30 March 2008

Dear Sir,

On harassments faced by Film Director Thushara Peiris in Chennai, India

It has been reported that film director Thushara Peiris was harassed and assaulted by a group calling themselves the "Tamil Nadu Film Directors Association" when he visited Gemini Studios in K.K. Nagar in Tamil Nadu to work on a Tamil-language copy of his film titled Prabhakaran.

We wish to register our disquiet about this incident.

Our concern here is with the principle, not the content of the film per se. We believe that the rights to hold and express opinions are fundamental rights accepted by both our countries and enshrined in our respective constitutions. Making films or any other cultural production related to a social, an economic or political theme is to exercise this inviolable right. It is in this context that we believe the recent attack against Thushara Peiris is a violation of that right.

Condemning the assault, we would like to express our gratitude to officials who rescued Thushara Peiris from the violent mob and facilitated his safe passage back to Sri Lanka.

Our organisations have been informed that the master tape of the film is still at the Gemini Studios and we urgently request the intervention of your good offices to return these master tapes.

Emphasizing the need for enhanced cooperation between our respective Governments and peoples on supporting and strengthening media freedom and the freedom of expression we look forward to stronger relations in the future as we work towards shared goals of democratic governance.

Sincerely,

Sunanda Deshapriya and Sanath Balasuriya

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