A female journalist arrested on suspicion at the UNESCO WPFD conference in Colombo on 1st of May 2006 was remanded by Colombo chief magistrate Kusala Weerawardana on 2th upon produced by the cinnamon garden police.
Police has told the court that the case has been handed over to the National Intelligent Service and Terrorist Investigation Division for further investigation to find out whether she has any links with terrorism/ organisations.
Sivaramya Sivanathan, a Tamil female journalist attached to state owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC) as a relief announcer, was questioned by the police at the entrance of the conference. When she couldn’t produce a invitation for the event she was arrested and handed over to the police despite her producing her identity card given by the SLBC. Director, Tamil services SLBC Mr. Jeevendra Kumar confirmed FMM that Ms. Sivaramaya is working under him as a relief announcer.
Free Media Movement has urged the government to look into this incident urgently and instruct the police to speed up the investigations and release Ms. Sivaramya Sivanathan if she is proved innocent.
The following is the background information issued by The Media and Communications Unit, Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies, Colombo:
On the 1st May, a young female Tamil journalist was arrested by the Police on suspicion- ironically at the UNESCO ‘World Press Freedom Day’ Conference hosted in Colombo by the Ministry of Media and Information. The event took place at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo on 1-2 May 2006,.
The journalist Ms. Sivaramya Sivanathan (26), has been attached to the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation since 2003 as a Relief Announcer. According to her colleagues, she had gone for the inauguration of the Conference, which related to her profession, in order to do a story on the event..
Many people including women were permitted to enter the premises without being asked to produce their invitations. However Sivaramya had been asked to produce her invitation. Having failed to do so, she had been arrested by the Cinnamon Gardens police. She was remanded at the Welikada Prison to be produced in court tomorrow, 5th May 2006.
The only reason that can be attributed for the request to furnish the invitation card was that she belonged to the minority Tamil community
Ms. Sivanathan had produced her Press ID and her national identity card, but for no avail as the police was only interested in the invitation. At the time of her arrest, the Police had contacted the Tamil Services Director of SLBC who had confirmed that she was a journalist attached to SLBC but had stated that she was not been officially assigned by the organization to cover the event. .
According to Ms Krishni Kandasamy, President, Tamil Speaking Womens’ Journalists Association of Sri Lanka ,this young journalist is described as “bright and dynamic” by her colleagues,. Being a talented journalist, she was recently selected by the Independent Television Network (ITN) as a newsreader too. She is also continuing her education as an external student at the Peradeniya University.
This incident has caused much distress to her family; employer, who is doing everything he can to ensure she can resume her duties at the earliest; her colleagues and the journalists of Sri Lanka.
The Tamil Speaking Womens’ Journalists Association of Sri Lanka has strongly condemned this as an act of discrimination against women journalists of the minority community.