Monday, 14 March 2011

Exiled Journalists Network meeting held at House of Commons in London

By Kausalya Rajanaiyagam

 "The only person to really attack the EJN and question the reasons as to why the LTTE were not highlighted or spoken about when it came to the killings of journalists in Sri Lanka was Seyed Bazeer of the Sri Lankan Muslim Information Centre, London."


(October, 12, Denmark, Sri Lanka Guardian) A meeting was organised at the British House of Commons on Wednesday, 10 October 2007 by the Exiled Journalists Network (EJN). The event was co-hosted by Rt Hon. Andy Love MP, Secretary of the "All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Sri Lanka". The meeting was chaired by Ms. Michelle Stanistreet, President, National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland.

The members of the panel of speakers were as follows:

Sunanda Deshapriya, Convener, Free Media Movement on Sri Lanka & Head of Media Unit, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo.
Nadaraja Kuruparan, News Manager (Tamil) ABC Radio Network, Sri Lanka.
Chandana Keerthi Bandara, Senior Producer, BBC Sinhala service.
Pearl Thevanayagam, EJN Secretary, Sri Lankan journalist.
David Dadge, Deputy Director, International Press Institute, Vienna.
Bertand Pecqueriem Director, World Editors Forum, Paris.
Seyed Bazeer, Human Rights Lawyer, Sri Lankan Muslim Information Centre, UK.
Yolanda Foster, Researcher Sri Lanka and Nepal, Amnesty International.
Tom Porteous, Director, Human Rights Watch, London.
Mohammed Elsharif, Chair of the EJN.

Members of various Sri Lankan political parties attended the meeting including Nesan Shankar Raji of (EROS) and members of the Campaign for Peace and Unity in Sri Lanka (CPUSL). Sunanda Deshapriya, Convener, Free Media Movement on Sri Lanka & Head of Media Unit, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo was highly critical of the government of Sri Lanka and attacked the Rajapakse Administration over their negligence in investigating the killings and kidnappings of so many Sri Lankan journalists. He went into great lengths to highlight the plight faced by journalists in Sri Lanka using a power point presentation with the identities of journalists killed in Sri Lanka and some photos of those that were killed.

Sunanda Deshapriya labelled the EPDP and TMVP as parties responsible for the abductions and killings of some of the journalists. Nadaraja Kuruparan, News Manager, ABC Radio Network too was highly critical of the government of Sri Lanka and spoke of the suffering faced by the journalists by the Sri Lankan government and military. What I could not understand is that neither Sunanda Deshapriya or Nadaraja Kuruparan are exiled journalists. One can only assume that they had received payments from the LTTE to come over to London and speak about the plight of journalists in Sri Lanka.The Editor of the Udhyam paper too was highly critical of the government and the Sri Lankan military and spoke how the papers offices had been ransacked by the EPDP with the assistance of the Sri Lankan army where two of his staff members were killed. The Editor of the Udhyam paper flew top London with the financial assistance of the LTTE and was accompanied by LTTE agents to the House of Commons.

"Gang of Four" Councillor Yogarajah of the London Borough of Kingston too was highly critical of the government of Sri Lanka. One cannot be too surprised as he is a hard-core supporter of the LTTE and actively raises funds for their terrorist cause in Sri Lanka. I seemed to get the impression that this meeting was orchestrated with the assistance of the LTTE for their own agenda and propaganda. The Exiled Journalists Network (EJN) were not critical of the LTTE and hardly spoke of the LTTE's had in the killings, disappearances and abductions of journalists in Sri Lanka including their hands in the killing of Sivram Taraki and Balanadaraja Iyer of (EROS) who worked as a journalist. The only person to really attack the EJN and question the reasons as to why the LTTE were not highlighted or spoken about when it came to the killings of journalists in Sri Lanka was Seyed Bazeer of the Sri Lankan Muslim Information Centre, London.

Towards the end of the discussion Pearl Thevanayagam, EJN Secretary, invited representatives of the Sri Lankan High Commission to defend the dubious allegations that were made by members of the EJN and panel against the Sri Lankan government and military. Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, the new Military Attaché to the Sri Lankan High Commission was quick to defend the Government of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan military and clearly stated that the Sri Lankan military had no interests in intimidating journalists and have in no way taken part in the killings.

The International Press Freedom Mission to Sri Lanka which was lead by Ms. Michelle Stanistreet, President, National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland and David Dadge, Deputy Director, International Press Institute, Vienna with the assistance of Sunanda Deshapriya of Centre for Policy Alternatives, Colombo which went on a fact finding mission to Sri Lankan last year had every opportunity to speak with the EPDP leader Minister Douglas Devananda to seek an explanation into the dubious allegations made against the EPDP and they did not undertake these measures. David Dadge, Deputy Director, International Press Institute, Vienna is on the payroll of the LTTE which clearly explains why this entire meeting was focused against the Government of Sri Lanka and not the LTTE.

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