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"Mawbima" journalist's passport and identification document seized as harassment campaign continues

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an FMM press release:

Journalist Maunasamy Parmeshwari's passport and National ID taken away

The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed to note that journalist Maunusamy Parameshwari's national identification document and passport were taken away this morning and have not been returned to her.

Parameshwari was on her way to her offices at the "Mawbima" newspaper, close to Boralla, Colombo 08. As she was walking through an underground pedestrian crossing, two persons carrying small arms with ID ostensibly showing they were from State security agencies approached her and demanded that she produce her national identification document and passport. She handed them over and was then asked to go to the Rajagiriya Police Station, located nearby, to collect them at 3.00 p.m. (local time). Despite waiting until 3.30 p.m. no one produced her ID or passport. She has lodged a complaint with the Borella Police regarding this incident.

Parameshwari told the FMM that the person who took her documents was the same person who bundled her into a van and warned her against speaking to the media and politicians in April this year.

We recall with distaste that she was arrested by Terrorist Investigation Division of Sri Lankan Police on 23 November 2006 and released on 22 Feb 2007 without any charge against her. Regrettably, the government, including several senior ministers, worked hard to propagate dangerous lies regarding her arrest and detention.

It is deplorable that a government which detained her for three months without a single charge against her is still trying to vilify and intimidate her. In the opinion of the FMM, her ethnicity and the nature of her work at "Mawbima", shut down for political reasons by this government earlier this year, are, we feel, the essential reasons for her continued suffering at the hands of this government.

Occurring at a time when the President is meeting human rights representatives of the UN in Geneva, we feel this episode is a telling indicator of the real situation of human rights in Sri Lanka. We unequivocally condemn this most recent intimidation of free media and in no uncertain terms hold the government responsible for whatever happens to Maunasamy Parameshwaree. We urge the relevant authorities to stop this incredible erosion of media rights in a culture of impunity and fear and request that they restore Parameshwaree's ID and passport without any further delay.

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