State media in Sri Lanka lead attacks on Human Rights Defenders

June 4, 2013

According to a statement from the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on 4 June there is an ongoing attack in Sri Lanka on Human Rights Defenders, NGOs & opposition politicians through the Independent Television Network (ITN). The statement give concrete and detailed indications to show that ITN – in spite of its name – has continued to follow the government line and started a fresh round of attacks in May this year. Those targeted have included prominent heads of NGOs, lawyers, journalists, clergy, academics and activists in exile, the leader of the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), other MPs of the party and smaller opposition parties and their MPs and leaders. They have been branded as supporters of terrorists and of being part of western conspiracies, working to get foreign money and overthrow the Government. I provide the statement in full as it contains precious detail:

These accusations were centred around three main issues: 
• Collaboration between the German Friedrich Nauman Stiftung Foundation (FNF), opposition parties and NGOs (revolving around a June 2010 workshop by FNF for opposition politicians)
• Participation at the funeral of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader’s father in January 2010 held in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, but alleged to have been held in India by the news broadcasts)
• Protests against the electricity price hikes in May 2013

• FNF, the opposition leader, opposition members of the Parliament, NGOs and journalists have been collaborating to overthrow the Government, acting on the agendas of the LTTE supportive Diaspora, and establish a pro-LTTE Government in Sri Lanka
• The opposition leader, NGOs and journalists have been getting funding from FNF for the above
• FNF provided financial support towards the funeral of the LTIE leader’s father’s funeral in India, and the FNF country representative, a FNF Director and the General Secretary of tile Federation of Media Employees Trade Union attended the funeral of the LTTE leader’s father in India

Names of some persons mentioned:
• Ms. Sagarica Delgoda, FNF Country Representative
• Ms. Shyamila Perera, Executive Director of Institute for Democracy and Leadership
• Mr. Sandun Gamage, Program Director of Institute for Democracy & Leadership
• Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli, General Secretary, Federation of Media Employees Trade Union
• Dr. Pailtiasothi Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives

Names of some organizations mentioned (in addition to the above):
• Transparency International
• Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE)
• Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
• Free Media Movement (FMM)
• Federation of University Teachers Association (FUTA)

Names of some persons whose images were shown (in addition to the above named persons):
• Rev. Fr. M. Sathivel, Anglican Priest and Human Rights Defender
• Ms. Sudarshana Gunawardena, Executive Director, Rights Now Collective for Democracy
• Mr. Udaya Kalupathirana, INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
• Dr. Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri, President of FUTA
• Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne, leader of the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP)
• Mr. Mano Ganesan, leader of the Democratic People’s Front DPF)
• Leader of the Opposition and the UNP, Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe and other MPs of the UNP

Opposition members of parliament from the United National Party UNP had confirmed that they have participated in FNF organized workshops, but had pointed out that senior Government Ministers and MPs had also participated in FNF organized workshops. UNP members had also denied they accepted money from FNF. No evidence was presented by the ITN in relation to any of the allegations levelled.
Some examples of the news broadcasts are given below [I added emphasis to the alleged ‘crimes’ of going to Geneva which confirms earlier reported efforts to intimidate those HRDs who cooperate with the UN]:

Date and time

of news


Link to the news broadcast

(Sinhalese) & relevant segment

Summary of contents and remarks

14th May 2013, 7pm /videos/btv/youtube/itn-news/itn-news -14-05-13/play.html?1(5.53-10.31) Shows images of several HRDs and opposition politicians, names several FIR organizations and says conspiracy against country will start tomorrow in guise of protest against electricity tariff hikes. Says NGO forces are pursuing the Tamil Diaspora agenda of establishing Eelam (a separate Tamil Homeland in the North and East of Sri Lanka).
19th May, 7pm
news -19-05-13/play.html#p sel(11.12-18.24)
Accuses opposition politicians and NGOs such as the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) of trying to overthrow the Government based on the agenda of LTTE – Diaspora and bringing into power a pro-LflE UNP to power. Also accuses the FNF of having connections to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the anti-Sri Lanka UN Human Rights Council. Shows images of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, opposition politicians, the FNF Country Representative and several other HRDs such as Rev. Fr. Sathivel, Mr. Sudarshana Gunawardena and media activists such as Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli, Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya, Mr. Poddala Jayantha in a protest. (The latter two are in exile since 2009). The news broadcast also mentioned that liberals from Germany of the same-sex orientation were speakers at some of the workshops conducted by FNF and attended by opposition politicians from the UNP.
20th May, 6am deos/btv/voutube/itn-news /itnmorning-news -20-05- 13 /play.html#p sel(3.30 – 10.29) Same as above
21st May, 7pm deos/btv/voutube/itn-news /itnmorning-news -20-05- 13 /play.html#p sel(0.04-03.56 in part II) Says the FNF Country Representative went to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for questioning with a representative of the German Embassy and lawyers. It also accuses the Ms. Shyamila Perera and a Director of the Institute for Democracy Leadership and Mr. Dharn-iasiri Lankapeli of the FMETU of attending the funeral of the LTTE leader’s father in India, with Mr. Lankapeli being highlighted through a red circle. Images of Ms. Shyamila Perera are also shown. FNF is also accused of providing funding for the funeral. It also shows an image of Dr. Paikiasothi Saravanamuttu and says CPA (of which Dr. Saravanamuttu is the Executive Director) also has direct contacts with FNF.
22 May, 6am deos/btv/voutube/itn-news /itnmorning-news -22-05-13/play.html#p sel(06.16-10.23) Same as above
23rd May, 7pm deos/btv/voutube/itn-news /itnmorning-news -23-05-13/play.html#?1(01.48-6.31) Accuses exiled journalists of being involved in protests against the country and shows several exiled press freedom activists (such as Mr. Sunanda Deshapriya and Mr. Poddala Jayantha), as well as others like Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli in a protest march.
It accuses Ms. Shyamila and Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli of participating in the funeral of the LTTE leader’s father in India, with Mr. Lankapeli being again highlighted through a red circle. FNF is also accused of providing funding for the funeral. It also says Attorney at Law Mr. Sandun Gamage went to participate in anti-Sri Lankan activities during the Geneva Council. 
25 May, after the 7pm news, Vimasuma program dependent-television- network/itn-vimasuma-25th- may-2013-
video 38daO6blb.html#sthash.5 yuC0Apg.kfnNZo6n.dpbs (0.03 – 3.48)
Accuses that the opposition political party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is working with NGOs to overthrow the Government through strike actions. And also accuses the UNP of using workshops and money of FNF to overthrow the government. Shows images of Mr. Dharmasiri Lankapeli (highlighted by a red circle) and says FNF funded people to attend the funerals of relatives of the LTTE leaders. The FNF Country Representative’s photo was also shown and she was also accused of trying to overthrow the government.
27 May, 7pm -27-05-13/play.html#p sel(5.39-13.54) Says that more information about connections between the LTTE Diaspora and the Institute for Democracy and Leadership has come to surface. It also reads out a letter from Sandun Gamage, in which he:
• Denies accusations that he went to Geneva for a conspiracy with pro-LTTE Diaspora and that he never went to Switzerland in 2012 or 2013 and that he is ready to produce his passport as proof of this.
• That the accusation about having an NGO office in the upper floor of a address indicated in previous news broadcast is false and that the only office is a legal office run by him and another lawyer

information provided by the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU)

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