Jaffna, Sri Lanka – Tamils in Jaffna gathered to commemorate ‘Black January’ with a protest urging the Sri Lankan government to protect media freedom across the island. The protesters carried placards denouncing media harassment and displayed photos of journalists who have been killed or forcibly disappeared while calling for justice.
The media workers, especially those from the North-East, face ongoing harassment, surveillance, and interrogations by the state’s security forces. This is particularly true for Tamil journalists reporting on sensitive issues such as land grabs and Sinhalisation in the North-East.
January holds a somber meaning for Tamil journalists, as it is a month to remember their colleagues who have been victims of violence or forced disappearances. The protest coincided with the passage of the Online Safety Bill in Sri Lanka, which has raised concerns from international organizations, activists, and opposition politicians who see it as a means for the government to suppress dissent and silence freedom of speech.
The Online Safety Bill is framed as a measure to regulate online content, but critics argue that it provides a tool for the government to crack down on freedom of expression. The passage of the bill adds to the existing challenges faced by journalists and media workers in Sri Lanka.
The protest in Jaffna serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for media freedom and the dangers faced by journalists in the country. It also highlights the importance of international attention and support in holding the Sri Lankan government accountable for upholding media freedom and protecting the rights of journalists.
As the voices of dissent continue to face repression, the protest in Jaffna stands as a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. It also underscores the need for ongoing advocacy to ensure that the rights of journalists and media workers are protected in Sri Lanka.