Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

UN Human Rights Council sees Controversy

The United Nations saw the 27th Regular Meeting of the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council

Lithuania, just beginning their presidency of the European Council, opened discussions with a general statement of the EU position on Human Rights. The delegation from Ireland put forward a draft motion about maintaining pluralist civil society.

The delegations began to grow more adversarial Allegations of forced sterilizations of Tamils were issued against Sri Lanka. Myanmar was criticised for its discrimination and the violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Then a representative of Human Right’s Watch began accusing Egyptian human rights activist, Mona Seif, of not being eligible for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), Egypt raised point of order that it was not relevant to the agenda. America disagreed, Cuba backed up Egypt as did China, UK went with the US then Pakistan supported Egypt. Human Rights Watch went on to call Mona Seif a “terrorist supporter”.

This was not unexpected as the last few months have seen increased controversy over Seif’s nomination following the publicising of Tweets where she celebrating the sabotage of the Egyptian pipeline bringing gas to Israel and the burning of an Israeli flag. Seif defended herself by saying:

“One of the rights that we, the young people of Egypt, have succeeded in seizing is the right to insult our own government and to insult anyone whose policies are bad for our people. We insist on this right.”

However many feel it would damage the reputation of the prize as her Tweets “publicly voiced blatantly violent views”

Another NGO raised the issue of the Falun Gong in China and their persecution. China objected calling the Falun Gong an “evil cult” which had been outlawed and denying that this was relevant to the agenda. While supporting this point of order from China, Cuba wandered from the point to criticise Israeli violence against Palestinians using the word “genocide” for which the Americans and UK delegations criticised the Cubans.

World News 22/9/2013

11:30 UTC

PAKISTAN: Two suicide bombings have killed up to 60 people, according to hospital officials, at a church in Peshawar.

KENYA: Gunfire has continued in the Westgate shopping mall 24 hours after the conflict began. 59 people are suspect dead, 10-15 gunmen are thought to still be inside with 7 hostages.

Somali militant group al-Shabab took responsibility and Kenyan police forces and army are still sweeping the shopping mall trying to flush them out. There are as many as 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia working as peacekeepers since 2011.

SRI LANKA: Tamil party have won a landslide victory in the first semi-autonomous council election since the devastating decades of ethnic civil war. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) got 30 out of a total 38 available seats.

The Sri Lankan government, which is Sinhalese majority, held the election after increased international pressure. There were reports of voter intimidation and harassment by Sinhalese police or security forces. 

Photo: Azzam Ameen from Twitter

World News Roundup 19/9/2013

Philippine forces have claimed to have won back 80% of the led held by rebels after 11 days of conflict. The conflict began with a stand off between the army and fighter from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) a separatist group that wants an independent state for Moro people. The MNLF opposed a peace deal being struck with a rival rebel faction the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who broke away from the MNLF because they felt they had lost a Muslim spiritual focus. The southern city of Zamboanga became a battle group between the MNLF and state forces. 

Riots have broken out in Greek cities of Athens and Thessaloniki following public sector strikes. Anti-fascism protests and anarchist groups joined the protests calling for the banning of far-right group the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn was a lot of support within the Greek police force.

This follows on from the murder of anti-racist rapper Killah P (Pavlos Fyssas) who was stabbed to death on Tuesday by an alleged member of the Golden Dawn.

Photo: RT Lucy Kafanov via Twitter

A well known Sri Lankan journalist has left Sri Lanka after her family were threatened at knifepoint. Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema is the associate editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper and led a trade union for journalists. She has received death threats in the past. Sri Lanka’s reputation for intimidating journalists has only gotten worse in recent months and we have covered some of those cases here before.

Abeywickrema receiving the Investigative Journalist of the Year award in 2009/ Photo: The Sunday Times.lk

US poverty rate remains at 15%. That’s 46.5 million people and 16.1 million of them are children. Which is 1 in 3. 1 in 3 of America’s poor are children.

Jordan is constructing a new Syrian refugee camp which will be able to hold more than 100,000 people. More than half a million people have crossed into Jordan since the conflict began.

Freedom of the Press

The internet has allowed greater freedom of the press than ever before in human history but many governments have shown tendencies to try to combat this freedom wherever they can.

Reporters Without Borders is an NGO dedicated to protecting journalists and the rights of the press.

“Every year, some 500 journalists are arrested, 1,000 assaulted or threatened, and over 500 media outlets censored. All of these violations have serious consequences which need to be tracked in order to better counteract them.” – RSF

They also campaign against internet censorship, teach about online security and provide support for online journalists.

“Netizens now play an essential role in the vanguard of news coverage worldwide. However, more and more often, they are becoming victims of threats and censorship by governments who fear this new cyberspace of freedom.”

Organisations like this are becoming increasingly necessary with the climate of censorship and harassment of the press that appears to be growing more prevalent in countries that would have previously supporting a free media.

UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The US have traditionally taken great pride in their press freedoms but in recent years have found ways to undermine any attempts at investigative journalism.

In May this year the US Department of Justice seized the calls records of the Associated Press (AP) without being given warning or told why the records were needed, no warrant was issued. Whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden or Barrett Brown have all mean met with severe punishment or been forced to flee the country.

Not only that but one of the documents that Chelsea Manning is accused of having passed to WikiLeaks is a video proving that a US helicopter was responsible for the killing of two Reuters reporters as well as multiple Iraqi civilians.

Barrett Brown is facing charges that could add up to 105 years in federal prison for simply investigating the actions of a private security company. Jeremy Hammod, pleaded guilty to hacking the email account of Stratfor and released hundreds of emails that contained sensitive information including discussions of possible assassinations. Brown linked colleagues to a public URL that contained the emails. This is the reason he is being charged with “trafficking” in stolen goods.

“Barrett Brown is not a hacker, he is not a criminal…He did not infiltrate any systems, nor did he appear to have the technical expertise to do so. Above all, Barrett was an investigative journalist who was merely doing his professional duty by looking into the Stratfor emails, an affair of public interest. The sentence of 105 years in prison that he is facing is absurd and dangerous” – Reporters Without Borders General Secretary, Christophe Deloire.

In the last week, a gag order has been placed not only on Brown himself but on all his lawyers forcing them to refrain from: “any statement to members of any television, radio, newspaper, magazine,  internet (including, but not limited to, bloggers), or other media organization about this case”.

In response to trends like these, Pieter Omtzigt of the European People’s Party has tabled a motion for a resolution regulating surveillance programmes and protecting whistleblowers on July 31th in the Council of Europe. 

The proposed resolution would call on member states to regulate and control surveillance, protect whistleblowers on a national level and spark an investigation by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. This committee has previously shed light on CIA inference and secret detention centres.

All over the world, journalists continue to be at risk. A month ago journalists were attacked by soldiers in Sri Lanka for covering a protest against the pollution of a local water source. Four atheist bloggers were arrested and one imprisoned in Bangladesh. Authorities in Myanmar have consisted sought to curb the media and have now banned Time magazine for it’s discussion of militantly, radical Buddhist groups.

It is the purpose and responsibility of journalists to critically report on world events but far greater protections for these reporters need to be implemented.

Tanzanian radio broadcaster Phot credit: UNESCO /Jonathas Mello
Tanzanian radio broadcaster Photo credit: UNESCO /Jonathas Mello

BBC Concerned for Tamil Reporter in Sri Lanka

The BBC has reported today that it is concerned by the questioning of Ponnaiah Manikavasagam, a reporter for BBC Tamil by Sri Lankan police forces yesterday.

Sri Lanka ranks 162nd out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

RSF and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) made a joint statement:

“The authorities trying to intimidate and behave in a threatening manner should be seen as a serious assault on the already worsened media freedom and freedom of speech in Sri Lanka.”

In April there was an armed attack on the Tamil newspaper Uthayan in the northern city of Kilinochchi, and despite two employees being seriously injured, little was done to investigate.

And this was after the Sri Lankan government censored BBC Tamil language broadcasts in March “a day after the start of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council’s latest session, which has been looking at the issue of war crimes in Sri Lanka.

 

Sri Lanka’s Defense Minister claims UN Visit influenced by propaganda

The Sri Lankan defense minister, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, claimed that the visit of the United Nations human rights chief was influeced by propaganda circulated by the remnants of the Tamil Tigers.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known frequently as the Tamil Tigers were rebels who fought in nearly 30 years of civil war before being defeated by the government in 2009. Ethnic Tamils claimed they faced, and still face, much discrimination from the Sinhalese ethnic majority. The goal of the Tigers was to create an independent Tamil state. A UN report says that up to 40,000 people were killed in the final days of the conflict.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, just concluded a week long visit to Sri Lanka which followed a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling on Sri Lanka to investigate civil era war crimes committed by its government forces that passed in March.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Pillay expressed concerns about the situation to journalists in the capital, Colombo, on Saturday.

“I am deeply concerned that Sri Lanka, despite the opportunity provided by the end of the war to construct a new vibrant, all-embracing state, is showing signs of heading in an increasingly authoritarian direction…the fighting is over, the suffering is not”.

Pillay reported that some of the activist, journalist or simply ordinary Sri Lankans who tried to meet with er were “harassed by police or military officers“.

“This type of surveillance and harassment appears to be getting worse in Sri Lanka, which is a country where critical voices are quite often attacked or even permanently silenced…the United Nations takes the issues of reprisals against people because they have talked to UN officials as an extremely serious matter.” – Pillay

But Rajapaksa claims that these ideas are created by ex-LTTE propaganda and the Sri Lankan people must choose whether to trust in their government or not rather than being “caricatured by external entities influenced by vested interests.”

Pillay will brief the UN Human Rights Council on her findings next month and a full report is due to be published in March 2014.

Orla-Jo