Journalist U.S.A. Bandara was threatened and attacked by ruling party politician while he was covering the aftermath of clay more attack on a civilian bus which took place around 7.00 am 16th January 2008 in Okkampitiya of Monaragala district.
At least 27 passengers were killed and more than 50 persons were injured as the result of the attack. Journalist Bandara, provincial correspondent the area for popular Sinhala language TV cannel SIRASA was covering the tragedy when politician Sarath Welihena and village officer (Grama Niladari) Lalith Rajapaksha stated abusing him saying he should stop coving the event.
While ruling party politician Sarath Welihena slapped the journalist village officer shouted saying that he is the government agent (GA) for the area and no one can video the area without his permission. Both of them were trying to incite grief- stricken people against the TV channel saying that it is anti government channel.
FMM condemns this anti media behavior of both persons as a violation of people’s right to information and journalist’s right to gather information. Politicians have a duty to ensure fundamental rights of the people not to assault them. As a public servant village office has a duty to provide information to media and journalists not to hamper gathering information. It is clear that both these persons wanted media not to investigate the incident. People of the area had reported to police that they have seen unknown armed persons in the vicinity, few days before the claymore attack.
Naming the suspects, journalists U.S.A. Bandara made a complaint (no. 21-181) at the Buttala police station on 18th January. Two other SIRASA TV staffers who were there to cover the situation also made complain at the same police station on 19th January. Expressing our series concern, we call upon the government and the Police to arrest the suspects and produce them in a court of law without any further delay.
FMM is compelled to note that this is an yet another attack on media which in what is already a sordid record of the inability of the Sri Lankan Police and relevant authorities to check the killings, abductions, assaults, intimidation and threats against journalists.