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#Srilanka – Threats against Nimalka Fernando’s life through state media #Vaw

IB Reference: IMP/PAC/0/1140/13(Police Complaint Number)

pic courtesy– srilanka brief –  At SLHRC Nimalka Fernando with political party leaders
The radio programme titled Rata Yana Atha (The way country is forging ahead) broadcasted in the Commercial Channel of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation on 4th November 2013 was based on a voice cut given by me to the Hiru TV to be relayed in the HARD TALK segment during the daily news bulletin. I had listened to the original version of the HARD TALK relayed on Sunday 3rd of November by HIRU TV.

On 4th November morning I received several telephone calls from friends and relatives stating that a statement made by me to HIRU TV is being used in a radio programme of the SLBC in an improper manner including causing threat to my life. According to them what was said in this programme was going to cause a real danger to my life.
Since the telephone calls received were of serious nature taking note of their concerns I decided to switch on the radio to listen to this particular programme around 9.00am on the 4th. I listened to the programme for about 30 minutes. What I heard was so violent , defamatory and stressfulI and I had no mental strength to continue to listen any further. The synopsis of what I heard is given below:
The main title of the Programme was `Stoning the Sinner Woman’
Broadcast: Sections of what I said in the Hard Talk interview
`59 years old…divorced….serving 30 organisations…about Rs 100,000…since 1989 carried tales….’
From the studio voice of Mr Hudson Samarasinghe Chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation
`See what she has done’
Then calls were taken. I am writing only what I remember though much more abusive and defaming statements were made by the callers , Mr Hudson Samarasinghe and a person called Gayan who was present in the studio as the compeer of the programme:
Call 1: “ We can not allow persons like Nimalka Fernando to live in this society”
Call 2: “ We use insecticides to eliminate the spread of mosquitoes. Some mosquitoes develop a resistance to such spray. These people are like that. We have to find a method to destroy them.”
Call 3: “If we do something to them the government will be blamed by the human rights people. We should use a lorry and cause an accident.”
Call 4: “ There is something call cleaning in the army. Mr Gotabaya knows this. We should hand her over to the cleaning system.”
Call 5: “Chairperson, today you have started a good activity. Continue this upto March 2014 and begin to deal with the NGO clan one by one.”
While callers were making such statements Mr Hudson Samarasinghe was actively involved in supporting the ideas expressed to eliminate me. The words he used welcomed such ideas as well as endorsed them. The person called Gayan too (present in the studio) joined him agreeing to the ideas and facilitated the calls.
Most of the callers were men. During the 30 minutes at least 3 of them identified themselves as those who had served the armed forces and retired. Another caller said that he has a friend who was injured during the war.
Some callers also mentioned names of Vickramabahu and Lal Kantha who are political leaders in Sri Lanka who have expressed fearlessly their positions publicly. They were of the view that `the society has not taken action against them’.
Mr Hudson Samarasinghe who is the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation did not stop the callers from making offensive and derogatory statement nor spreading such violent ideas against me. He did not disassociated himself from these comments which called for my annihilation. I heard a caller referring to me as a prostitute. The Chairperson of the SLBC encouraged all these comments and further encouraged openly defamation and my annihilation.
The totality of this programme is the creation of a dialogue through a government media to destroy my life.
Events leading up to death threats to Nimalka Fernando and other human rights defenders and political activists
On 25th October Ms Maheesha Mudugamuwa of the Island newspaper asked me to comment on three questions – The report of the health ministry which indicated that there are over 40,000 sex workers, my views related to abortion and increase of AIDs patients in Sri Lanka. She posed these questions one by one.
Commenting I appreciated the categorization used by the health authorities saying this will help protect the sex workers who are normally harassed under the Vagrance Ordinance of Sri Lanka which should be abolished. I also informed her not to use the word prostitution since the reporter continued to use this terminology. I told her that as a women’s rights activist I do not use the word prostitution. I also called for the abolition of abortion laws in Sri Lanka and called for safe sex and promoting a more protective reproductive health approach in Sri Lanka. I also emphahsied that in view of the GOSL promoting Casino based economic ventures and a leisure industry there has to be protection since with all this we have to understand that sex industry will creep into Sri Lanka. She wrote her article with the caption `Call for Legalising Prostitution’ for the newspaper on 27th October. Following this article another reporter from the Mawbima(the Nation) asked for a clarification and he too wrote an article with the caption ` Legalise Prostitution’. These two newspaper articles became the centre piece of the debates in few newspapers while those for and against initiated a public debate. I am attaching the Island news report. The link to Ceylon Today | Protecting the sex workers Link: http://www.ceylontoday.lk/59-46646-news-detail-protecting-the-sex-workers.html
Several FM channels got me to clarify my statement and I also had an opportunity to engage in a public debate over one of the FM channels with the Secretary of the JHU(Buddhist monk lead political party in Sri Lanka) since they issued a press statement related to my position attacking me of destroying culture and traditional norms of Sri Lanka. I valued this debate since we had a good discussion and he never threatened me even though I had expected a virulent debate.
Several days later one of the TV Channels Hiru which belongs to the brother of one of the UPFA Member of Parliament (Duminda Silva who is one of the accused of the murder of Bharatha Lakshman a senior UPFA politician in October 2011) requested me to give few comments under their segment titled HARD TALK. Of course some questions were very personal but I answered them straight. I also listened to this segment which was relayed on Sunday 3rd November during the main news bulletin.
On 4th Monday morning I began to receive many calls in the morning informing me that there is a radio programme in the SLBC which is using my voice cut and making derogatory statements and using words like `must eliminate her’. The callers were so agitated that I was compelled to switch on the radio. This was around 9.00 am. The above is the synopsis of the complaint I forwarded to the Human Rights Commission and the Inspector General of Police requesting (a) for an inquiry and investigation for committing a criminal offence (b) violation of my fundamental rights (c) requesting that the tapes be secured for proof since this will provide information of the callers and their telephone numbers.

 

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