I wrote a note for using the “Black January” leaflet that celebrates 2022. It is the request of Duminda Sampath of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association and the Lasantha Silva of the Free Media Movement.
I decided to develop it as an article after several events-related notes are circulating on Facebook. Uvindu’s note is prominent among them.
According to media activists, January is a “black” month. It is called “Black January”. This is because January has to be used as a month to pressure those responsible to seek justice for the crimes committed against those journalists and media institutions.
The month of January was chosen not because there were no other months of the crimes. This is because most incidents against journalists and media institutions took place in January.
Subramaniam Sugirdarajan was assassinated on January 24, 2006. Lal Hemantha Mavalage on SLRC was attacked on January 23, 2008. The Sirasa studio complex was set on fire attack by using claymore mine on January 6, 2009. Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader was assassinated on January 08, 2009. Upali Tennakoon the incident took place on January 23, 2009. The disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda took place on January 24, 2010. The Lanka e News office was set on fire on January 30, 2011.
Thus, January is a “black” month for journalists, because of the number of horrific, barbaric attacks on journalists and media institutions during previous regimes. During the period 2000-2015, a civilized society did not tolerate that crime against the media. Part of the list of horrific events can be summarised as follows.
- The assassination of Mile Vehicle Nimalarajan 2000.10.19
- Assassination of Aiyathurai G. Nadesan on 01.05.2004
- Assassination of Kandasamy Iyer Balanadaraj on 16.08.2004
- The assassination of Dharmaratnam Sivaram on 28.04.2005
- The assassination of Relangi Selvaraja on 12.08.2005
- Assassination of Subramaniam Sugirdarajan 24.01.2006
- The assassination of Sampath Lakmal de Silva on 01.07.2006
- The assassination of Subhash Chandra Bose 2007.04.16
- Assassination of Selvarasa Rajivvarman on 29.04.2007
- The assassination of Sahadevan Nilakshan on 01.08.2007
- The assassination of Paranirupasingham Devakumar on 28.05.2008
- The assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge 08.01.2009
- The disappearance of Subramaniam Ramachandran 2007.02.15
- The disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda on 24.01.2010
Victims of attacks
- Attack to T M G. Chandrasekara 2007.12.27
- Assault to Lal Hemantha Mawala 25.01.2008
- Abducted/Assaulted Keith Noyer 22.05.2008
- Assault on Namal Perera 30.06.2008
- Shooting to Radika Devakumar 08.09.2008
- Assaultedto Upali Tennakoon 23.01.2009
- Abduction / Assaulted Viddyadharan 2009.02.26
- Abduction / Assaulted Poddala Jayantha 01.06.2009
- Assaulted Gnanasundaram Kuganathan 29.07.2011
- Threatening Mandana Ismail 23.08.2011 and 2013
- Mandana Ismail Threatening 23.08.2013
Attacks on media institutions
- Bombing to Sudaroli Press Institute 29.08.2005
- Set on fire / Shooting to Uthayan newspaper 2006.6.2 / 2013.04.13
- Destruction of Sirasa TV studios 06.01.2009
- Attack on Siyatha 30.07.2010
- Arson of Lanka Enews 30.01.2011
In addition to this list, 12 media workers, newspaper agents, distributors, were reportedly killed by indirect attacks aimed at preventing them from commenting.
(Excerpted of the dates and details of these incidents from by a note of Seetha Ranjani)
In almost all these incidents, all the basic complaints required for justice have been filed. Just as most of the list above were Tamil journalists, all 12 slain media workers also were Tamils.
Investigations of the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda have identified suspects but the inquiries of them have been blocked. On February 26, 2010, the Police Terrorism Investigation Division arrested a man named Jesudasan in connection with Lasantha’s murder. The suspect who was arrested was identified as P.S. Jesudasan died suddenly in prison.
Lasantha’s elder brother, Lal Wickramaratunga said that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had told him three times that “General Fonseka killed Lasantha”. The good governance government that came to power in 2015 removed Lasantha’s murder investigation from the Terrorism Investigation Division and handed it over to the CID. That investigation was also not had done properly inquire.
Police announced that an Army intelligence sergeant has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the July 16, 2016 murder of Lasantha Wickremaratunga. The Army Intelligence Sergeant who was arrested on July 27, 2016, identified the driver of Lasantha Wickramaratunga during an identification parade held in court. The police told the court that the soldier had also been charged in connection with the assault on Upali Tennakoon. Lasantha’s body was exhumed on September 27, 2016, for a new autopsy. Relevant investigations were also stalled to some extent.
The case of Lasantha Wickrematunge’s murder was scheduled to be heard in the Hague People’s Court on January 12 and 13. The case hearing has been adjourned until April due to Kovid #19, the case has to be taken to an international court for justice.
Like Lasantha, the police have been able to find significant evidence regarding the murder of Sivaram, the disappearance of Ekneligoda, each of those murders, assaults all incidents.
Subramaniam Ramachandran, who went missing in the North, was arrested at an army checkpoint while traveling with a friend. He called it his home the previous night to call that he was in the army camp and said he would be back soon but did not return.
The T.M.G. Chandrasekaera and TV employees were attacked by Mervyn Silva, the then minister who entered Sri Lanka Rupawahini Corporation. Sampath Lakmal’s mother had said that Sampath Lakmal had left his home for the last time with a friendly military intelligence officer with whom he had frequent contacts.
The name of this army officer also came forward in the case of the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda. The armed group that entered the house of journalist Mandana Smile was unable to fulfill their wish or cause harm to her.
The case against Nimalarajan, who was assassinated in 2000, was pending for a long time and was concluded on the orders of the Attorney General with the acquittal and release of the six suspects. It means saying that no one killed Nimalarajan. Similarly, the Dharmaratnam Sivaram murder case also has been excluded. We do not know how or when it will end.
The last good governance regime period had started several incident investigations such as Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunge. But the present government released the arrested suspects these several incidents accused and provided them with jobs also.
The last good governance regime period had started several incident investigations such as Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunge. But the present government released those who were arrested suspicious were these several incidents accused and to give them various jobs. Who provides security for criminals to remain at large, despite the visible and convincing evidence of crimes against journalists?
We need to intervene to win international attention on the ongoing impunity for crimes against journalists in Sri Lanka. Also, a political determination is needed to bring justice to the crimes against journalists. Journalists will have to continue to struggle to pressurise for it.
The murders, disappearances, assaults, and many other tragedies associated with these events cannot be forgotten by us. At the same time, many key leaders of media organizations had to flee the country to save their lives.
ttps://www.facebook.com/uvindu.kurukulasuriya/posts/10158666353649818 20021 Uvindu’s ending his Facebook note that as follows. “Justice will not be served right now to Poddala, Upali, Keith, and anyone who was killed, who was fatally assaulted,” I am trying to complete Uvindu’s note.
In fact, the activities of media organizations were a headache for the Mahinda regime at that time. As soon as any incident against journalists occurred, five media organizations (Free Media Movement, Professional Journalists Association, Tamil Media Forum, Muslim Media Forum, and Federation of Media Employees’Trade Unions) took immediate action and responded to every incident.
The Mahindha Rajapaksha regime was a crackdown on journalists intensified, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) advised these leaders to leave the country to save their lives. Ajith Seneviratne and I slept that day with Uvindu and others, who had left Sri Lanka, in the safe house on Flower Road, provided by the Center for Policy Alternatives.
Almost all the journalist leaders of those days spent the night in this safe house. Neither I nor Ajiya knew about the departure of these people. When we get up in the morning and look, only both of us are in here. Other friends are missing. It was only after follow-up that we were able to find out about what happened.
Following our friends’ departure, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) advised me also to leave the country as well.
This is that intervention
But I met American official, Jeff Anderson, and politely declined his invitation. Poddala and Ms. Roshaan Theries from the Sunday Observer attended this meeting. In fact, it took a lot of effort for me to include Poddala involved in that discussion. That’s it Poddala knows well. All the facts said by Uvindu, about Poddala are strictly based on the truth. Poddala and I are aware of that and I will add a few other things here.
On the evening of the day Poddala was attacked, as he was leaving work, he came to the door of the Lake House Employees’ Union office and called me “Machan” for a minute. “Aren’t you going to the media organization discussion called by Mahinda Rajapaksa?” I asked him. “No machan, Mahindha was angry with me. You do not go to that meeting ” advised me by Athula Aiya (Victor Ivan) Poddala explained. I said, “machan, it would be good enough for you could attend this meeting Your danger may go away. Poddala did not give an answer and he left. The look of horror on his face still haunts me today also.
I told Poddala about my experience. If Poddala had gone to that discussion, I think Poddala will still be in Sri Lanka up to now. because I have read about Mahinda Rajapaksa. This media organization discussion was convened to alleviate the stigma against the government, both nationally and internationally. Therefore, if Poddala had gone to that discussion, I would still believe the attack that took place could have been avoided.
I said Poddala to come with me by invitation I received from the American Embassy. Because I had better understand the situation of Poddala. No matter how much I tried to explain, Jeff Anderson did not care about Poddala at that time.
With the attack on Poddala, Jeff Anderson’s attention was turned to Poddala.
Jef Anderson and IFJ Asia Pacific leaders had exchanged emails conversations with me about the situation. I share them with you for the understanding of who read this article.
These facts were added to substantiate the facts and to support the study of the tragedy’s history. That is why the article was so long. But the time has come for media organizations and journalists to engage in a relentless struggle to win justice as a giant rather than doing something.
At a time when unity is a more and more entrenched and important time, the “Young Journalists’ Association” has reportedly been removed from the “media organizations collective” without question. It is an act of condemning not only to journalists but to all people who were suffering and burning period that has been blackening for twelve months of the year.
However, I would like to note and finished this article and said that the time has come for journalists to join hands with the broad masses of the country to make justice for victims of the country, to defeat “black” January.
Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions