IFJ urges Sri Lankan Government to act on SLRC Attacks

IFJ

Media Release: Sri Lanka
March 14, 2008

Sri Lankan Government Urged to Act on SLRC Attacks

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demands that the Government of Sri Lanka order the police to take immediate action against perpetrators of a series of attacks against staff of the state-owned Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), as the Free Media Movement (FMM) reported yet another violent attack on an SLRC journalist.

The FMM, an IFJ affiliate, said Anurasiri Hettige was beaten with an iron rod by an unidentified gang on March 14.

It was the fifth physical assault or attempted attack on an SLRC employee since Labour Minister Mervyn Silva assaulted SLRC news director TMG Chandrasekara in a melee at the broadcaster’s office on December 27.

“The attack on Anurasiri Hettige is a clear indication that all SLRC journalists and staff who protested against the intrusion into the station by Minister Silva on December 27 are facing a real threat,” the FMM said in a statement.

“The Government’s silence on this series of attacks and its failure to act to end the violence and threats allegedly linked to a member of the government must end now,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Journalists and staff of SLRC have been targeted with threats and intimidation in an apparent link with media coverage of the Minister’s actions at the SLRC office on December 27.

January 25: Lal Hemantha Mawalage attacked by two armed men, suffered severe cuts to his arm; also received death threats on his phone on March 4.

January 29: Attempted attack on Duleep Dushantha by two armed men at his home; Dushantha’s mother threatened with death for informing of the incident.

February 27: Priyal Ranjith Perera, Assistant Director of News Camera, attacked by unidentified armed gang at his home.

March 5: Ranjani Aluthge, SLRC librarian, stabbed with razor knife on public bus.

As many as 10 journalists, media workers and journalists’ leaders from other television stations and media also have been reportedly targeted for their involvement in covering the December 27 incident and the subsequent media staff protests against Minister Silva.

Poddala Jayantha, a senior journalist with Silumina and the secretary of the Sri Lankan Working Journalists’ Association (SLWJA), an IFJ affiliate, endured an attempted abduction by armed assailants at his home on January 7.

Death threats were made to leading personnel at the MBC TV and Radio network: MTV head Chevaan Daniel, Sirasa director Kingsley Ratnayaka and Sirasa news director Susil Kedelpitya. Kedelpitya reports that his house and whereabouts are being watched by suspicious people.

Threats also have been delivered to media activists including SLWJA president Sanath Balasooriya and Dharmasiri Lankapeli, the general secretary of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, also an IFJ affiliate.

The IFJ joined the FMM in calling for journalists and democratic forces to make a united stand against orchestrated violence and intimidation intended to prevent journalists and media institutions reporting in the public interest.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries

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