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An Open Letter to Sri Lankan Journalists

An Open Letter to Sri Lankan Journalists

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Published by Thavam

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Published by: Thavam on Nov 18, 2013
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11/18/2013

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on Foreign Affairs
Sunday 17 Nov 2013I definitely detected a delicious sense of sc!adenfreude" fro# a#ong you $rave % $ut #isc!ievous & Sri Lankan  journalists' over t!e relentless !arass#ent of #e and #y (!annel ) Ne*s colleagues $y state intelligence' police and i##igration officers+I,# not referring to t!e ranting rott*eiler reporters" *!o do t!e regi#e,s clunky propagandist $idding' alt!oug! I !ave no dou$t t!at t!ey enjoyed it too+-ead #ore. Sri Lanka' /i#possi$le journalis#, and (!annel ) Ne*sI,# talking a$out t!ose of you *!o live *it! suc! !arass#ent yourselves' day in' day out' and don,t % or can,t & co#plain+ !ose of you *!o confided in #e t!at doing *!at you do is so#eti#es really !ard+
State repression of t!e press,(o#e on' ad#it it+ Finally us rits *ere feeling t!e c!ill *ind of state repression of t!e press in your $eautiful tropical paradise % and *e *ere feeling it at first !and+asn,t t!ere just a little part of you t!at secretly relis!ed kno*ledge t!at t!at our train nort! !ad $een $locked $y pro&govern#ent de#onstrators'
 
tipped off $y t!e intel agents travelling *it! usAnd *!at a$out *!en you !eard t!at for t!e final couple of days of our visit *e *ere $eing tailed $y no less t!an five separate state intelligence ve!icles 4idn,t you let slip a little s#ileI,# not suggesting for a #o#ent t!at you didn,t sy#pat!ise *it! us *!en you !eard t!at a gang of t!ugs !ad pelted us *it! rocks as *e left an intervie* on Saturday+ 5ou also pro$a$ly recoiled' as *e did' at t!e sinister $roadcasts on state 6' as (allu# acrae' #y friend and colleague and 4irector of No Fire 8one' *as repeatedly denounced as a supporter of t!e a#il igers+I do kno* you s!ared our disgust and indignation *!en *e *ere re#oved fro# t!e lists of approved journalists" dee#ed *ort!y of attending ne*s conferences *it! your delig!tful president 9t!e one *!o' $y t!e *ay' still o*es #e t!at pro#ised cup of tea+:If it !adn,t $een for so#e persistent !aranguing of your ass edia inister $y (o##on*ealt! Spokes#an -ic!ard ;ku and $y t!e indefatiga$ility of #y <ditor' en de =ear' *e *ouldn,t !ave got in t!ere+Sin!alese' a#ils and usli#s4on,t *orry t!oug! if you did sc!#irk sc!adenfreudenly" at so#e of t!e a$ove+ !is assign#ent !ad its angsty #o#ents' $ut *e enjoyed it too+ e love your country+And for all t!at is reported to t!e contrary' *e kno* t!at *e !ave #any friends t!ere+Sin!alese' a#ils and usli#s+ So #any people gave us secret t!u#$s&ups or *!ispered' *inked or nodded t!eir support+ So#eti#es in t!e #ost surprising places+ !ere aren,t #any t!ings t!at I delig!t in #ore' as a journalist' t!an turning a ca#era on pesky intel irritants in a repressive country+ !e opportunity I !ad to do just t!at in do*nto*n (olo#$o' near t!e 5ork Street >? of (I4' *as' I,ve got to say' unusually satisfying+It,s up t!ere *it! a fig!t I !ad *it! #y @addafi #inder and tops si#ilar run&ins in 8i#$a$*e' ur#a' (!ina' Syria and Sudan+ !at said' I do not #ean to #ake lig!t of *!at t!ese agents of state repression are capa$le off+
=us! t!e $oundaries,As foreign journalists' visiting during a #ajor international su##it' and *it! our o*n pri#e #inister and foreign secretary in to*n' *e !ad a security $lanket I kno* t!at you don,t !ave+I reckon it *as t!oug!t un*ise to arrest and torture us or kill us' te#pting as it #ust !ave $een+ot! (allu# and I !ad deat! t!reats prior to co#ing' $ut *e recognise t!at it *as #uc! safer for us t!an it is for you+ !at is *!y *e felt it *as i#portant to pus! t!e $oundaries as *e,d !ave
 
epected to !ave $een a$le to do in a free and de#ocratic country" as your president called Sri Lanka yesterday+a!inda -ajapaksa !as #aintained t!at !e,s co##itted to (o##on*ealt! values % *!ic! include freedo# of epression and freedo# of t!e press+>o* !e,s done so' *!ile keeping a straig!t face' I cannot fat!o#+ So#e of your ne*spaper editors are tet!ered goats+ 5our state 6 is edging to*ards =yongyang+I kno* t!at at least nine of your nu#$er !ave $een #urdered in t!e past ten years+ !ere are fe* t!ings t!at c!illed #e Buite as #uc! as reading Lasant!a ickre#atunge,s deat! foretold+=rageet! <knaligodaI *ince in pain *!en I !ear =rageet! <knaligoda,s *ife still pressing to find out *!ere !er a$ducted !us$and,s gone+I too !ave !eard *!at you,ve all !eard. t!at not!ing at all of <knaligoda re#ains+I kno* t!at t!e Ne* 5ork&$ased (o##ittee to =rotect Cournalists ranks Sri Lanka 1D2nd out of 17E in ter#s of independence of t!e press+I kno* t!e red lines *!ic! you cross at great risk to your life epectancy+ I kno* it can $e difficult for you to *rite critically of t!e -ajapaksa $rot!ers+ 5ou cannot *rite a$out t!e ar#y and' unlike us' you can,t really even #ention t!e *ar+I kno* t!at you live *it! *!at -eporters Sans Frontieres ranks as t!e *orst record for press freedo# for any parlia#entary de#ocracy any*!ere in t!e *orld+ut t!en again' to cast Sri Lanka as a parlia#entary de#ocracy is kind of stretc!ing irony+ut for all t!e restrictions' I #arvel at t!e inventive *ays you find to $ravely do your jo$s+I nearly fell off #y c!air in -ajapaksa,s press conference yesterday *!en a Sin!alese journalist *as t!e first to stand up and ask t!e president a$out *ar cri#es allegations+Ad#iratione *ere all *itnesses to *!at !e did+ I !ope to @od !e,ll $e G once t!e spotlig!t,s off Sri Lanka once again+I,# sitting *riting t!is on t!e plane' !aving $een forced' $y t!reats to our security' to leave faster t!an *e,d planned for+I,ve $een reading your Sunday papers+ I understand !o* clever you are $eing' in t!e so#eti#es o$liBue *ays in *!ic! you !ave to *ork+I really understand !o* difficult it is+ I understand t!e terri$le dile##as you #ust face *!en Buoting people *!o t!e#selves are putting t!eir lives at risk+ It,s really !ard+ I s!are your anieties+It *as inspirational to !ave #et you+ e all ad#ire you for t!e *ay you operate in t!e face of t!is repression+

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