Sri Lanka: 27 Tamil journalists locked out

| A Statement issued by the NfR - Net working for rights in Sri Lanka -Exile network for media and human rights in Sri Lanka

(September 20, Geneva, Sri Lanka Guardian) NfR Sri Lanka, a network of Sri Lankan journalists and human rights defenders living in exile expresses serious concern that 27 permanent cadres of the Tamil language daily newspaper Thinakkural have been locked out due to industrial dispute by the new owners of the newspaper. Senior journalists of the newspaper, Editor-in- Chief of the Sunday Thinakkural, News Editor, Deputy News Editor, and Senior Editorial Assistants are among the locked out staff. President of the Tamil Media Association Barathi Rajanayakam is also among them.

Thinakkural, second best selling Tamil daily news paper in the country functioned effectively for three decades as an independent Tamil newspaper under various pressures and threats. A month ago the newspaper was bought by the owners of the Veerakesari, the largest Tamil daily newspaper. The new owners have demanded that all members of the staff to submit letters voluntary resignation. The reason was not clear but it is believed that by recruiting them as new staff would enable the new management to deny benefits for the staff who have long years of service. Thinakkural journalists who didn’t agree to that condition were locked out by the new management.

NfR considers this arbitrary action of the New Thinakkural management as undemocratic and calls for immediate reinstatement of the staff with their benefit packages intact.

Journalists in Sri Lanka are paid poorly than other countries in the region. Trade unions are not allowed by any of the privately owned media establishments. In Sri Lanka, journalists working for Tamil language media establishments are the lowest paid.

One of the owners of the Veerakesari Mr. Kumar Nadesan happened to be the chair person of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI). Scandinavian- funded SLPI runs a journalism training college, self regulatory body and emphasizes freedom of the press. It is ironical that chair people of the SLPI which depends on donations form countries where strong trade unions among media community facilitate better journalism treat media staff in his own newspaper unjustly.

Collective of media organizations including the press freedom watch dog Free Media Movement and the largest journalists entity in the country, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association have written to Mr. Kumar Nadesan requesting to solve the dispute through negotiations respecting the rights of journalists.

We stand by the Media organizations' collective action to bring justice to Thinakkural journalists. NfR calls upon the journalists and media organizations in the Scandinavian countries to voice their concerns in solidarity with Thinakkural journalists.

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