New film about exiled Sri Lankan journalists premieres in Melbourne

More than 100 people attended the first Melbourne showing of the film Silenced Voices: tales of Sri Lankan journalists in exile on September 6.

The film tells the stories of three journalists who have been forced to leave their country due to government repression. Sonali Samarasinghe, the wife of murdered editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, tells of her husband's death at the hands of government agents. She now lives in the United States, and is shown in the film trying unsuccessfully to interview Sri Lanka’s representative to the United Nations, who was accused of war crimes in his previous role as a military officer.

Apputhurai Lokeesan, formerly a journalist working for the website tamilnet.com, now lives in exile in Europe. While in Sri Lanka he took photos showing the government's bombardment of civilians during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. These photos were published on tamilnet, but ignored by the world's media.

Bashana Abeywardena, also formerly a journalist in Sri Lanka, now lives in exile in Germany, where he coordinates the group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

After the film, Abeywardena and Lokeesan took part in a panel discussion, along with the film's director, Norwegian journalist Beate Arnestad.

Abeywardena told the audience that Tamils in Sri Lanka continue to suffer severe oppression. Since the end of the war in May 2009, the size of the Sri Lankan army has increased. Many Tamils are unable to return to their homes, because 7000 square kilometres of land is occupied by the military. In the Jaffna peninsula — a majority Tamil area — there is one soldier for every five people.

Arnestad spoke of the widespread sexual violence carried out against Tamil women in Sri Lanka.

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