[TamilNet, Thursday, 18 June 2009]
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York based media watchdog, in a special reported published Wednesday, said Sri Lanka topped the list of countries that drove the largest number of journalists into exile. "At least 11 Sri Lankan journalists were driven into exile in the past 12 months amid an intensive government crackdown on critical reporters and editors," the report said, adding the number worldwide totalled 39. Of these journalists, 29 were driven out of threat of violence, 7 threat of imprisonment, and 2 out of harrassment, the report added.
"Sri Lankan journalists have faced severe retribution for producing critical coverage of government military operations against Tamil rebels. Upali Tennakoon, editor of Sinhala-language weekly Rivira was driving to his office when four men on motorcycles smashed his car windows, beating him and his wife with metal bars. Though his paper was pro-government, Tennakoon had criticized a high-ranking army official.
"Following his release from the hospital, Tennakoon?s wife fielded a menacing phone call urging her husband to quit journalism ?or else.? Fearing for their safety, the couple left for California, where they had family to receive them. Tennakoon has followed the investigation of his attack from afar, but no progress has been made. ?Without information about who did this and why, I don?t think it is safe to go back,? he told CPJ in a recent interview," the report said about one journalist.
At least nine Sri Lankan journalists have been murdered this decade without a single conviction being won against an assailant, according to CPJ research.
Mr. Sivaram Dharmeratnam, 46, a senior editorial board member of TamilNet was abducted and murdered on 28th April 2005.