22nd March 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed to hear that Government MP and Minister of Labour Mervyn Silva, notorious for threatening media and journalists, has threatened MTV / MBC journalists covering the opening of a flyover bridge in his electorate on 20th March. Addressing the News First journalists, the Minister said,
“I am neither indebted to you, nor do I have anything to do with you and am not afraid of you. You are the most vagrant, despicable media institution in the country. Today, I point my finger at you. Hereafter I will raise my hand. Therefore, in the future, do not let me see you attending any function held in my electorate. I ask you who spread evil to find a place to hide.”
The FMM condemns this completely unwarranted and despicable threat of violence against media by an infamous MP best known for his flagrant and violent abuse of journalists with complete impunity. Further, we consider the Minister’s statement as a threat against the entire media community critical of him and his shenanigans.
Susil Kindelpitiya, Director of News at MTV/MBC has already lodged a complaint with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on this open threat to their news reporters. In his letter of complaint, Kindelpitiya states that
“This is to bring to your urgent and immediate attention that News 1st reporters and staff are being threatened by Minister Doctor Mervyn Silva. Given the numerous past instances of public violent attacks against citizens and media institutions by Mervyn Silva, we are seriously concerned about threats to life and property of our News 1st staff. We therefore expect you to immediately and urgently investigate this issue and ensure justice. ”
All media other than those under government control and many politicians, including those in the Government ranks, have voiced their anger on the violence unleashed by this Minister and his henchmen on media personnel. Given the ruling party’s inability and unwillingness to take any disciplinary measure against the Minister, the FMM can only believe that the Minister’s actions and statements are with the tacit approval of the regime. Further, given that this threat was made despite a promise made by the Minister in front of the President a few days ago at a meeting with senior media trade union leaders and journalists to not inflict any further harm upon journalists, the FMM holds the President himself accountable for the Ministers statement and actions.
The FMM requests all democratic forces to roundly condemn the Ministers action and to pressure the ruling party and regime to take urgent and meaningful disciplinary measures against this retrograde MP as a sign of their commitment to democratic governance. We also await eagerly the response of the IGP to the complaint filed by MTV / MBC since, to date, he has been unable and unwilling to bring a single culprit of violence against media personnel to book.