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Supreme Court finds journalist's detention illegal

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 17 July 2007 FMM press release:

Journalist wins a FR case

The Supreme Court of Sri-Lanka declared the detention of journalist Sivanathan Sivaramya by the police on 1 May 2006 illegal and ordered the two officers responsible to pay 50,000 Sri Lankan rupees (approx. US$446) in compensation to the journalist. The Supreme Court decision was announced on 16 July 2007 by a three-member bench comprising the Chief Justice and two other judges.

At the time of the arrest, Sivanathan Sivaramya was working for the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) as a part-time announcer.

She was arrested in 2006 at World Press Freedom Day conference organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as she was entering the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall. Soon after, the state-controlled media reported that a suspected Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) female suicide bomber was arrested, while waiting to kill a minister. Denying the accusation she claimed to be there as a journalist covering the conference. After five days in police custody, she was released on bail as a result of local and international pressure.

The police withdrew the case on 2 June 2006 as they found no evidence against her. After she was released she filed a human rights complaint at the Supreme Court.

Although FMM is relieved that Sivaramya has been cleared of any illegal activity by the highest judicial authority of he country, it is disappointed with the nominal compensation offered to her. FMM requests newspapers, TV and radio stations that painted her as a terrorist to publish an apology to Sivaramya as a matter of social responsibility.

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