The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is alarmed at reports that Susil Kedelpitiya, the news director of a popular television channel, is at risk after a series of suspicious incidents indicating he is under surveillance.
Kindelpitiya, of Sirasa Television, told the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, that he noticed a group of unknown people watching his home and car on the morning of February 14. He was later threatened by a driver in a pick-up vehicle and was followed by a hostile group that forcibly opened his car in an apparent attempt to harm him.
Kedelpitiya lodged a complaint with police headquarters in Colombo. However, he again reported the presence of suspicious figures outside his home on February 17.
According to the FMM, Sirasa, the Sinhala language channel of MTV-MBC network, is a leading outlet for news coverage and investigative reporting in the public interest. The FMM believes that attempts to intimidate or harm Kindelpitiya are related to his work on the Action TV news program, which recently aired several reports on corruption allegedly involving powerful figures.
“Exposing corruption is one of the ways that investigative journalists can ensure that the public is informed about the misuse of power,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“As the conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) intensifies, the people of Sri Lanka are relying on journalists to provide accurate and balanced information that is in the public interest.
“Threats and intimidation tactics used against individual journalists for their courageous reporting show an entrenched lack of interest or support for press freedom in Sri Lanka, which is an obstacle to the country’s democratic progress.”
The IFJ joins the FMM in unequivocally condemning all attempts to intimidate, harm and harass journalists, including Susil Kedelpitiya, and any acts by public officials or members of the public to undermine the safety and security of journalists and media personnel who dare to report the country’s inconvenient truths.