Sri Lanka: Freelance Tamil journalist arrested

New York, November 30, 2006—Sri Lankan authorities should either charge or release a freelance Tamil journalist detained for nearly a week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Parameswaree Maunasámi, who wrote for the Sinhala-language weekly Mawbima, was arrested at her home south of Colombo on November 24 along with another Tamil woman, according to the local media advocacy group Free Media Movement (FMM).

She is being held under anti-terrorist legislation that allows for prolonged detention without charge. The authorities gave no reason for her arrest. Mawbima has distinguished itself among Sinhala-language newspapers for an editorial line that is critical of both the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels, FMM spokesman Sunanda Deshapriya said.

Maunasámi’s colleagues said they believed she might have been arrested for her work at the paper covering the separatist conflict.

“We call on the authorities to clarify why they have detained Parameswaree Maunasámi,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Tamil journalists have too often been harassed because of their political affiliation, their ethnicity, or their reporting. Such actions harm the ability of all Sri Lankan journalists to cover this period of escalating violence.”

Fighting between government and rebel forces has escalated in recent months, and on Monday LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran called a 2002 ceasefire “defunct.”