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Journalist briefly detained, threatened by ruling party supporters in Jaffna

(FMM/IFEX) - 2 March 2010 - The five media organizations' collective condemns the illegal arrest of senior Jaffna journalist N. Parameswaran and threats directed against him by supporters of the ruling coalition. This unlawful act is a clear violation of peoples' right to information and journalists' right to gather information. Parameswaran was arrested in Jaffna on 27 February 2010 by a group of supporters of the Sri Lanka Peoples' Party (SLPP), one of the constituent parties of the ruling coalition. This blatant act of thuggery at the time of an election when peoples' right to information acquires a paramount importance challenges democratic processes.

The journalist is a Jaffna-based correspondent for "The Daily Mirror" and "Lankadeepa", published in Colombo, and the BBC Tamil service broadcast from London.

Parameswaran was gathering information in front of the SLPP office where Vanni IDPs (internally displaced persons) had gathered in long queues. The journalist told the five media organization collective that he was detained and threatened because he exposed a fraudulent action by the SLPP, who made the IDPs fill in membership forms for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the leading party of the ruling coalition, under the pretext of providing welfare support to the registered IDPs.

While he was talking to the IDPs, Parameswaran was detained by civil supporters of the SLPP and brought before the SLFP organizer in Jaffna, Thilakumara Udugama. His camera and mobile phone were taken by force and he was videotaped inside the party office while he was threatened.

He was released after half an hour, when a senior police officer refused to arrest him as demanded by SLFP organizer Thilakumara Udugama. The journalist's camera and mobile phone were later returned. Parameswaran told the five media collective that he lodged a complaint at the Jaffna police station on the same day.

It is ironic that before the president's request to the police to inform him immediately if a journalist is arrested is forgotten by the people, his political supporters in Jaffna have taken the law unto themselves by arresting Parameswaran. We, the undersigned media organizations, demand that an immediate inquiry be held on this violent act carried out by political supporters and that the culprits be brought to book.

Furthermore, we request that all journalists working in Jaffna, including Parameswaran, are assured of a situation free of intimidation and threats so that they can perform their duty to the people during the upcoming general election.

Free Media Movement (FMM)
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions (FMETU)
Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA)
Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF)

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