30th June 2008
The Free Media Movement (FMM) is shocked and outraged at the brutal assault of former TNL News Director and currently Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) employee Namal Perera and a friend this evening (Monday, 30th June 2008). Mr. Perera and his friend, Mr. Mahendra Ratnaweera, a Sri Lankan national working at the British High Commission in Colombo, were driving between Narahenpita and Kirulapone at around 06:00 p.m. when they were waylaid. The assault took place on the busy highway, in the vicinity of an army installation, the government information department and the security checkpoint at the Narahenpita bridge. The assaulters attempted to abduct Mr. Perera, but were resisted, and both Mr. Perera and his friend were badly beaten in the ensuing fracas. They are currently receiving treatment at the Apollo hospital. The potential abductors had clearly shouted that it was Mr. Namal Perera they were seeking.
FMM notes that at the time of the assault, the SLPI was contemplating legal action against the state-controlled Dinamina newspaper for reporting that the SLPI had sent members of the LTTE on a foreign tour to Denmark on the pretext that they were journalists (see FMM Statement of 27th June 2008).
This latest incident is sadly typical of the rampant assault on democracy and the freedom of expression that is taking place in Sri Lanka today. State-controlled media and government ministry websites are in the habit of baselessly demonising journalists and media professionals as supporters of the LTTE, and acts of physical harm are being committed with total impunity. The complete contempt for democratic freedom, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law that is demonstrated in incidents such as these, openly condoned by the highest government officials at various times, engenders no confidence that the dark climate of fear and intimidation shrouding media freedom in Sri Lanka today is being addressed by the government effectively or sincerely.
We will be closely monitoring the actions taken by the government to bring the perpetrators to justice in this latest criminal act, in particular the Cabinet Sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of Minister Sarath Amunugama, and will be treating this case as the litmus test of its effectiveness.
FMM calls upon all citizens of Sri Lanka to regard these revolting acts of cowardly violence against journalists as an assault on democracy and the human rights of all Sri Lankans. FMM takes this distressing opportunity of the assault on Namal Perera and Mahendra Ratnaweera to unreservedly condemn, once again, the continuing attacks in various forms against independent media and to call for their immediate end.