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Sri Lanka Chief Justice Violate Freedom of Expression: FMM Says Banning “Aksharaya” Film

(NIDAHASA News) In a free, open and democratic society, the freedom of artistic expression to explore complex social and moral issues is pivotal, Free Media Movement (FMM) said by a statement regarding Chief Justice’s extempore comments on “Aksharaya” film.

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(NIDAHASA News) In a free, open and democratic society, the freedom of artistic expression to explore complex social and moral issues is pivotal, Free Media Movement (FMM) said by a statement regarding Chief Justice’s extempore comments on “Aksharaya” film.

Speaking in Supreme Court on 31st July, Chief Justice Sarath N. De Silva stated the fact if that film offended the judiciary should be judged not by the director or the Public Performances Control Board but by the judiciary.

He asked if that kind of films could be shown in this country although such things could happen in the said Oedipus complex, and if the scene that woman magistrate were raped by a guard would not offend the judiciary.

“This is the task of the Public Performances Control Board, which comprises of persons with the knowledge and experience to balance the public interest in regulation with freedom of expression and artistic merit.” FMM says in the statement “Likewise, it goes without saying that we recognise the role of the judiciary in upholding the law relating to freedom of expression in such matters as defamation.”

The Complete Statement of FMM as follows:
1st August 2007

Chief Justice’s extempore comments violate freedom of expression, prevent fair hearing and compromise independence of judiciary in Aksharaya case

According to a Lanka E-News news report datelined 31st July 2007, in a Supreme Court hearing on an impugned decision by the Public Performances Control Board to permit screening for adult audiences of the film ‘Aksharaya’, the Chief Justice has purportedly made remarks from the bench which the Free Media Movement (FMM) views as having grave implications for the freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

( for the news itemin Lankaenews: http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=4481&PHPSESSID=562d4e259882c487f9a9c6bcb4268cc3)

FMM does not wish to evaluate the relative merits of the Chief Justice’s reported views on culture, morality and social values, or the intemperate, personal and intimidatory nature of some of those reported remarks. But we note and underscore the chilling effect on freedom of expression that is represented by a situation in which the judiciary takes upon itself to arbitrate and pass judgement on such matters.

In a free, open and democratic society, the freedom of artistic expression to explore complex social and moral issues is pivotal.

The potentially controversial nature of such issues is not an acceptable basis for the restriction of artistic freedom, and neither is the judiciary entitled to impose its own moral and social outlook on society.

Nonetheless, we fully acknowledge the need for appropriate regulation of artistic expression according to well-established principles, including the certification of material for audience suitability.

This is the task of the Public Performances Control Board, which comprises of persons with the knowledge and experience to balance the public interest in regulation with freedom of expression and artistic merit. Likewise, it goes without saying that we recognise the role of the judiciary in upholding the law relating to freedom of expression in such matters as defamation.

In our view, the judiciary should be at the forefront of the institutional protection and promotion of freedom of expression, subject to internationally recognised limitations on the exercise of that fundamental right, rather than act as a restraining agent on free expression. However, in the instant case, the remarks allegedly made by the Chief Justice are a clear and unjustifiable intrusion upon freedom of expression in that they are in effect an imposition of the Chief Justice’s personal moral perspectives on the subject matter of the film. This is totally unacceptable in a democratic society.

We believe that the Public Performances Control Board struck the appropriate balance between the public interest in regulation and freedom of expression with regard to this film in restricting viewing to adult audiences only. The judiciary should similarly respect the right and capacity of adult Sri Lankan film-viewers to come to their own conclusions about the film and its content.

FMM further notes that the Supreme Court has ordered the Public Performances Control Board to review its decision, but in the context of the Chief Justice’s comments, it has in effect substituted its own substantive judgement with that of the Board with regard to this film.

The Court has thereby extinguished any prospect of a fair and unfettered exercise of discretion by the Board in its review. This negates the purpose of the Board and sets an inhibiting precedent for its future activity.

Moreover, in a continuing and disturbing trend, the Supreme Court has revived the prospect of the use of contempt powers, which underscores the currently unacceptable judicial attitude to the proper role of the law of contempt and the critical need for reform.

The oppressive consequences for freedom of expression of these developments need no reiteration. FMM is firmly of the view that the Chief Justice’s gratuitous comments have prevented a fair hearing of this case, diminished the standards of judicial conduct, compromised the independence of the judiciary as well as that of the Public Performances Control Board, gravely impinged on the freedom of expression and artistic freedom in Sri Lanka, and set a most unfortunate precedent.

FMM therefore unreservedly condemns the Chief Justice’s reported remarks, and hopes that an appropriate retraction would be made so as to create a more conducive atmosphere for free expression and artistic freedom in Sri Lanka.

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Sri Lanka: a godforsaken 'Disneyland'? [Video]

(NIDAHASA News) “Why my parents gave me birth into this godforsaken 'Disneyland'?” an emotional Jagath Manuwarna broke down to tear in a press conference yesterday; he was among the artists who were attacked on Monday (29) during a street campaign in Kurunegala.

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(NIDAHASA News) “Why my parents gave me birth into this godforsaken 'Disneyland'?” an emotional Jagath Manuwarna broke down to tear in a press conference yesterday; he was among the artists who were attacked on Monday (29) during a street campaign in Kurunegala.

“I ask my parents, why didn't choked me to death in the moment I born into this weird Bollywood movie called 'Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka?' Now the only thing you can do for me is to buy me a Lamborghini, to race [with sons of Persident Rajapaksa],” the popular actor said sarcastically.

“Thuggery have become a qualification for politicians to climb up in their political career,” popular novelist Mohan Raj Madawala says.

Addressing the special media briefing organized by Next Generation artist's collective, popular author said now government goons have become so “brave” they do not even try to hide their identity.

The artist's collective called this beefing after Monday's attack on their street campaign in Kumbukgate, Kurunegala. Samanalee Fonseka, Udaya Dharmawardhana and Lakshman Wijesekara injured in this attack.

Full video of the event (Video: UNP Media)

“These local politicians now know this kind of behaviors would help them to the next level of political ladder,” Madawala explained how political system works under current regime.

“Can't you see the brutality of this corrupted regime?” actress Samanalee Fonseka asked senior artists who pledged their support to President Rajapaksa.

How can you stand with thugs, to protect a corrupted rule, Fonseka questioned.

“Government is attacking local artists while using Bollywood superstars for their election campaign,” popular author Upul Shantha Sannasgala said.

We will continue our struggle even after the election to protest civil rights in this country, Sannasgala added.

“It is clear that we are going back to the savage era,” senior playwright and actor Jayalath Manorathna said adding that the country is now ran by “jungle law.”

North Western Provincial Council member Don Kamal Indika, who allegedly led the attack, surrendered to the police this morning (31). There were around 150 goons with Provincial Councilor; most of them in Namal Rajapaksa’s “Nil Balakaya” T-shirts. However “Nil Balakaya” denied any involvement into the attack.

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Hundreds of activists gather to say they want “No More July”

(NIDAHASA News) “Racism is a butchery where the butcher satisfies us using our own flesh”, a young artist expressed his view in an event held in Colombo to commemorate the black July of 1983.

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(NIDAHASA News) “Racism is a butchery where the butcher satisfies us using our own flesh”, a young artist expressed his view in an event held in Colombo to commemorate the black July of 1983.

Janaka Illangarathne's work titled “Jaathi Mas” was a big attraction among many installations and performance arts exhibited at the anti-racist event “No More July”, held on this Wednesday (23).

Janaka Illangarathne's “Jaathi Mas” (Photo:Fabian De Alwis Gunasekare)

Hundreds of activists and artists gathered into the Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo to remember the anti-Tamil riot of 1983, which claimed many lived and caused heavy damaged to Tamil-owned properties, and according to some critics, paved way for separatist LTTE to establish their ideology among the Tamil majority.

Organizers said they are attempting to “make a change in the way July is remembered in a culture which historical injustices are tend to be forgotten.”

Bandu Mananperi's “Firecracker Dress” (Photo: KCThomas)

Janani Cooray's “Red Hands” (Photo: KCThomas)

Two performance arts, Bandu Mananperi's “Firecracker Dress” and Janani Cooray's “Red Hands” also attracted heavy public favor.

Ten musical bands including Ajith Kumarasiri, Indrachapa Liyanage, Skitzo and Amila Sandaruwan performed on the stage.

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Sanjaya: a brave fighter with rare human qualities

Second Edition(NIDAHASA News) Journalist and activist Sanjaya Senanayake passed away on Wednesday (21).

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Second Edition(NIDAHASA News) Journalist and activist Sanjaya Senanayake passed away on Wednesday (21).

“Sanjaya Senanayake passed away peacefully… after a long battle with cancer. He had asked that his friends be notified about his death.” his Facebook status said.

His ability to work as a one-man documentary film crew helped him report unseen stories from North and East even under difficult conditions.

He was a brave fighter against all kinds of injustice and been admired for his rare human qualities.

Sanjaya had been working as media head of Transparency International and many other local international media outlets. He also worked as a lecturer in local media schools.

Best known for his dexterity behind the camera Sanjaya was an intellectual, of various facets, in his own right. Son of Human Rights activist Sunila Abeysekara, Sanjaya was for many a revered teacher notably in striving for self-governance and perseverance.

Cremation will take place at 3.00 pm on the afternoon of Saturday, 24th May 2014 at the Godigamuwa Cemetery, Maharagama.

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