Government Minister runs amok in State run TV station in Sri Lanka

27th December 2007, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is outraged, not for the first time, at the behaviour of Government Minister Mervyn Silva today. In a wanton act of violence, the Minister stormed into the State run television station Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC) this morning with group of his thugs and assaulted its News Director, Mr. T.M.G. Chandrasekara. MP Mervyn Silva ostensibly entered the SLRC premises to protest that a speech made by him the previous day at a public meeting was not broadcast in the channel’s TV news bulletins. According to SLRC sources, Mr. Chandrasekara was assaulted twice and then dragged to the chairman’s office.

The FMM notes with deep regret and alarm that this unprecedented attack against a journalist in Sri Lanka by a politician of the ruling party is deeply indicative of the desultory attitude of the government towards media freedom. Further, we note that MP Mervyn Silva’s behaviour in particular and the context within which such hooliganism is allowed to persist in general is clearly demonstrates the significant breakdown of law and order in Sri Lanka today.  In this regard, we note that it is a matter of public record that the Minister in question has repeatedly and vituperatively threatened media personnel, particularly journalists from the MTV and Sirasa TV channels and the Sinhala newspaper Divanina.

The media community, in a fitting demonstration of solidarity, were unequivocally united in their condemnation of the Minister’s actions. The FMM recognises the courage of the journalists working at the SLRC and their colleagues from media organisations outside to barricade the Minister and his thugs until the arrival of the Police and the measures taken to demand a public apology live on camera.

The ignoble retreat of the Minister was a victory for free media and a significant show strength by journalists with a clear message to respect the right of journalists to be treated with dignity. The FMM has for a number of years strongly lobbied for the transformation of all State run media institutions as public service media, free from political and commercial pressures. We trust that this revolting attack is a turning point in this regard.

In reiterating its shock and dismay at MP Mervyn Silva’s obnoxious behaviour, we affirm that the only meaningful manner in which the Government can address this issue is to address the larger and marked deterioration of media freedom in Sri Lanka, recently ranked by the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) as the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

We also call upon the ruling party and the President to facilitate an urgent and full investigation into this incident with punitive measures taken against the Minister and meaningful assurances given that he will not be placed in any position to threaten or harm journalists in Sri Lanka henceforth.

Recommended action:

Urgently address your concern regarding MP Mervyn Silva’s actions today and the significant deterioration of media freedom in Sri Lanka to Hon. Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Minster for Mass Media and Information.

Ministry of Mass Media and Information
163, Kirulapona Road, Polhengoda,
Colombo 05,
Sri Lanka.

Fax: +94 – 11- 2513500

3 Responses

  1. […] Mervyn de Silva, the Minister of Labour, stormed into the State run television station Sri Lanka Rup… with a group of thugs, that we now know included murderers and underworld drug dealers, and brutally assaulted its News Director, Mr. T.M.G. Chandrasekara. Journalists and staff of the SLRC and their colleagues from media organizations mobilized around the offices of the Chairman of SLRC to barricade the Minister and his motley array of thugs until the arrival of the Police and the Minister apologized for his behaviour live on camera. Though the FMM regrets that the situation escalated to the point that the Minister and one of his thugs were assaulted, we understand the enraged feelings of the journalists who had to face such an unprecedented attack on media. […]

  2. […] other vital concerns, grave questions on the impartiality of investigations underway to look into the outrageous affront to media freedom involving Government MP Mervyn de Silva recently. Rather than disciplining the Minister, the Government, President, State machinary and […]

  3. […] On 27th December 2007 Labour Minister Mervyn de Silva stormed into the State run television station ….  Journalist Mawalage was among those who spoke live on behalf of SLRC employees as whole SLRC staff protested against the minister’s intrusion. […]

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