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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Censorship and attacks on journalists continue
US based Human Rights Watch Report - published in January 1999 - for the year 1998
"... Censorship of war reporting and restricted access to conflict areas made independent monitoring of abuses difficult, but reports continued of civilians killed and wounded in aerial bombardment, shelling and gunfire...
.....Independent press coverage of the war has been difficult since 1995, when the Defence Ministry introduced regulations barring journalists from the north except during infrequent visits organised under military escort. In June, the situation deteriorated further when, for the third time under the Peoples Alliance (PA) government, strict censorship rules were imposed on war reporting,punishable under emergency regulations. This time the government also banned reporting on the conduct and transfer of security personnel. News services noted that background on the ethnic dynamics of the war was frequently censored.
....Human rights and media organisations also protested a rash of politically motivated attacks on journalists in 1998. Two air force officers, a squadron leader and a flight lieutenant, were arrested for their February attempt to abduct senior military correspondent Iqbal Athas from his home and threaten his family. The men were directed to appear in court on October 14. Also in February, Pradeep Dhamaratne, a correspondent for the Sinhala language Dinamina , was hospitalised for injuries suffered when he was arrested and tortured after publishing a report linking local police to the illicit liquor trade. An inquiry led to the censure of an officer implicated in the incident, but Dhamaratne continued to receive death threats, and on March 4 his house was burned down. On July 17, unidentified attackers fired anti-tank bullets at the home of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge after his paper published allegations of government corruption.
On August 26, Thadshanamurthy Mathusoothanan, a columnist for Saranihar, the Tamil newspaper published by the human rights organisation MIRJE (Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality) and editor of another Tamil bulletin, was abducted off a street in Colombo and held incommunicado for seventeen hours until journalist friends traced him to police custody, where he was detained under emergency regulations pending investigation. His father, who attempted to visit him in detention, was denied access; on August 28 his two younger brothers were also arrested....
At the same time, Sri Lankan nongovernmental organizations came under additional government regulation in 1998. Both local and international organizations that worked in conflict areas or with conflict-affected people faced restrictions on their activities, and some found themselves accused of partisan loyalties. Peace groups and groups advocating free expression also ran risks of censure. As noted previously, journalists faced particular dangers in 1998.
.... International Alert, a British organization devoted to conflict resolution, was forced to close its office in Colombo following its dismissal in June of an employee who wrote an article critical of the LTTE in a local newspaper. The paper reacted to the dismissal by attacking International Alert and other like-minded NGOs as LTTE fronts. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar joined in the attack.
In May (1998), Peace Brigades International, an organization specializing in protective accompaniment of persons at risk of political violence, announced that it was ending nine years of work in Sri Lanka after officials from the ministries of defense and foreign affairs informed the organization that it would be required to submit all future reports to authorities before publication if its representatives wished to remain in the country. Peace Brigades reports frequently contained information about human rights situations faced by persons under their protection...."