Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU)
Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF)
Sri Lanka Tamil Journalists Alliance (SLTJA)
Free Media Movement (FMM)
Journalist cut with sharp knife
26th January 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: We, the five media major media organisations in Sri Lanka are shocked and appalled by the knife attack on journalist Lal Hemantha Mawalage on 25th night at Athurigiriya, a suburb of Colombo. He was on his way home around 11.00pm when he was attacked by two men on motor bicycle who lay in wait for him. He received severe cut injuries in his right arm, was admitted to Ward 72 of the Colombo general hospital and had to be surgically operated on 26th morning. Journalist Mawalage is a Producer in the News Division of state controlled Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC).
On 27th December 2007 Labour Minister Mervyn de Silva stormed into the State run television station Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC) with group of his thugs associated with the under world and assaulted its news director. Journalist Mawalage was among those who spoke live on behalf of SLRC employees as whole SLRC staff protested against the minister’s intrusion.
Our organisations have received credible information that some Under- world criminal gangs were planning to attack journalists who played leading role in protest against the minister and his gang. Three leading media personnel of the MBC TV and Radio network that covered the incident extensively – the Channel Head of MTV Channel One Chevaan Daniel, Sirasa Director Kingsley Ratnayaka and MTV/MBC News Director Susil Kindelpitya lodged complaints with the Maharagama police over death threats they received after the incident. Their complaints record the names of underworld persons who have been allegedly given contracts to kill them.
Journalist Mawalage received continuous death threats after his role in the SLRC staff protest. He had lodged a complaint with the Cinnamon Gardens police station with regard to the death threats he received. Three days ago his vehicle was hit by another vehicle and sped away.
We strongly suspect that this knife attack could be retaliation for his role in SLRC staff protest. There has been no other threats to him by any other for any reason according to our information.
This attack could send a strong message to the journalist community and create a fear psychosis if the perpetrators are not arrested immediately. Our organizations request police and the government to initiate an immediate and impartial inquiry in to this heinous crime against a journalist and the freedom of press and bring culprits to the book.
We hope that this will not be another attack on media in Sri Lanka which will be swept under the carpet as like what has happened to more than a hundred press freedom violations in recent times.