CHENNAI: Taraki, a documentary on the travails of a pro-Tamil Sri Lankan journalist who was abducted and later found dead in the vicinity of the Sri Lankan parliament a decade ago, was screened at the Chennai Press Club on Sunday to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Reminiscing about the protagonist of the movie ‘Taraki’ Sivaram, the filmmaker S Someetharan explained how the documentary tried to depict the larger issue of curbs on freedom of expression of journalists across the globe.
“During Rajapakse’s time, most of the Tamil journalists left Sri Lanka. The situation is now better as many are able to express themselves freely, but the fear remains. Journalists are still under the Intelligence scanner in Sri Lanka,” said the 34-year-old, who was born and brought up in Lanka.
Under Gotabaya Rajapakse’s defence regime, journalists could be picked up at random. The situation, however, does not exist anymore, he added.
Someetharan, who shot the film for around four years and released it in 2012, noted that many of the journalists interviewed for the documentary were either shot dead later, or had to flee the country. Some were still missing, he said.
Sivaram, a militant-turned-journalist and a well-read social scientist, would work hard and travel extensively to churn out hard-hitting stories in the time of Rajapakse’s dictatorial rule. “He would wear the same clothes for many days while in search of stories,” said Thisanayagam, his editor at Northern Herald.
“He was a freedom fighter; he first fought with arms and later with the pen,” said another editor. His wife and children said he would never tell them about the threats to his life and always advised them to be brave.
Sivaram was abducted on April 28 and the next day, his body was found in the vicinity of the Sri Lankan parliament, around 15 km away.
On the issue of his death, journalists and Someetharan himself acknowledged that no government in power in Lanka would conduct a proper investigations into Sivaram or other journalists’ death, as it would point fingers at the complicity of the Lankan armed forces.
“Right now, the new dispensation is busy attacking the predecessor, so this is the best time for journalists to write as freely as possible,” Someetharan added.