Held without charge, Sri Lankan journalist sees detention extended 90 days

New York, January 24, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Sri Lankan government to bring charges against detained Tamil reporter Maunasámi Parameswaree or release her.

Parameswaree, who wrote for the Sinhala-language weekly Mawbima, was arrested at her home south of Colombo on November 24. On Tuesday, the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in Colombo got a court order to extend her detention for another 90 days. She has been held without charge.

Colleagues told CPJ they believe her detention may be related to her reporting on human rights violations by security forces. Mawbima is a Sinhala-language newspaper noted for an editorial line that is critical of both the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels.

Parameswaree is being held under anti-terrorist laws that allow for prolonged detention without charge. At the time of her arrest the authorities gave no reason for holding her. TID representatives told the court on Tuesday that they needed more time to investigate her case.

“The government should not resort to holding journalists for prolonged periods and then hide behind bold accusations of terrorism that it fails to substantiate,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Maunasámi Parameswaree should either be charged, or she should be released while the government investigates her case.”

The Free Media Movement (FMM), a press freedom group in Sri Lanka, said Parameswaree has not been questioned for several weeks. FMM said her lawyers have had very limited access to her and, after Tuesday’s hearing, planned to petition the Supreme Court for her immediate release.

Reacting to criticism from CPJ and other press freedom groups, the Government Information Office released a statement on December 2 saying that Parameswaree “has been detained in connection with an arrest of an LTTE suicide bomber in Colombo. The police have clarified that the detention of (Parameswaree) is not even remotely connected to her media profession. She has been detained solely in the course of a terrorism-related investigation.”