Govt. responsible, say protesters – BBC Sandeshaya

 
Five media organisations, trade unions, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and opposition parties took part in the protest  Media watchdogs, opposition parties and trade unions in Sri Lanka have accused the government of being responsible for the wave of attacks against the journalists.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of president’s official residence in Colombo to protest the assault on journalist Namal Perera and British diplomat, Mahendra Ratnaweera.

The protesters want the killings and assaults to end, and for the government to stop the culture of impunity.

Public urged to support media

Mr. Perera, Course Director of Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) and the British official were travelling in a car in Narahenpita as the assailants launched the attack.

Both of them, with injuries to their head and mouth, were admitted to the hospital.

 
IFJ says it is the government’s responsibility to act within its ranks, military forces and paramilitaries to prevent such attacks 

Opposition leader, Ranil Wickramasinghe, urged the public to join the protests against increasing attacks on media personnel.

Representatives from five media organisations and opposition parliamentarians took part in the protest.

Rs. 5 million reward

A spokesperson for International Federation of Journalist (IFJ), Chris Warren, told BBC Sandseshaya that ‘forces within the government’ are behind many of the recent attacks.

 Chronology of events


Paranirupasingham Devakumar killed in Jaffna on 29 May
Defence Secretary threatens union leaders on 26 May
Keith Noyahr brutally assaulted on 22 May
SLRC’s Anurasiri Hettige assaulted on 14 March
SLRC worker, Ranjani Aluthge, slashed with razor on 05 March
SLRC journalist Mawalage assaulted on 26 January
Union leader Poddala Jayantha threatened on 07 January
Minister Mervyn Silva’s supporters assault SLRC journalists in December, 2007

“The government has to act within its ranks and within its own forces and paramilitary allies to prevent these attacks,” Mr. Warren, who also took part in the protest said.

Meanwhile, the SLPI with the Newspaper Publishers Association offered a reward of Rs. 5 million for information regarding the assault.

Chairman of the SLPI and Managing Director of Express Publishers, Kumar Nadesan, said the publishers decided to call a press conference as the situation is ‘very grave’.

He announced SLPI and the publishers have established a scheme together with Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to collect information on assaults on media personnel.

12 journalists killed

The attack on Monday is the latest of a string of attacks on journalists perceived to be critical of government’s war strategy.

 
Opposition leader urged the public to support media freedom

Keith Noyahr, associate editor of The Nation, was kidnapped and brutally assaulted by an unknown gang on 22 May, days after he criticised Army Commander, Gen. Sarath Fonseka.

Twelve media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka in the past three years; eleven of them in government-controlled areas.

Two media union leaders, Sanath Balasuriya and Poddala Jayantha, were warned by the powerful Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, not to criticise the security forces.

Defence Secretary’s threats

Mr. Rajapaksa, the younger brother of the President, is described as a ‘press freedom predator’ –alongside LTTE leader Prabhakaran – by Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
  The government has to act within its ranks and within its own forces and paramilitary allies to prevent these attacks-IFJ spokesperson, Chris Warren

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has told editors and newspaper owners not to criticise the war conducted by the government against the Tamil Tigers.

Suspected drug dealers lead by President Rajapaksa’s political ally, Minister Mervyn Silva, assaulted senior journalists at a state media institution, in December last year.

Though the government and police pledged investigations, none of the perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice.

 

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SRI LANKA: Another journalist attacked, hospitalized- CPJ

 

New York, July 2, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned by the attack Monday evening on Namal Perera, freelance journalist and deputy head of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI), a media rights advocacy group. Perera was attacked by men with iron bars in Colombo while traveling in a car with a British diplomatic official, according to international news reports.

Perera is recovering from serious injuries in a Colombo hospital. Mahendra Ratnaweer, the British High Commission officer, was severely injured, according to Agence France-Presse. 

Perera and Ratnaweer’s car was followed by men on two motorbikes, according to Sunanda Deshapriya of the Free Media Movement, who spoke with Perera in the hospital. Sensing danger, Perera said he phoned a colleague at SLPI. The car was soon cornered by the motorbikes and a white van. Four men stepped out of the van and broke the car’s windows with metal poles.

The men attempted to pull Perera out of the car, repeatedly shouting, “We want you.” Both Perera and the officer were beaten repeatedly with the poles. The attackers then fled the scene.

“The attack on Namal Perera is yet another example of the violence and intimidation aimed at journalists in Sri Lanka,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “These attacks have gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The government is responsible for the culture of impunity that surrounds violence against journalists. It is time to reverse that ugly reality.” 

Parera told reporters he is convinced the attackers targeted him. He has recently criticized the government’s actions in its campaign against secessionist Tamil rebels. From the hospital, he told reporters that Tuesday’s incident is part of an attempt to silence people who criticize the official policy. On June 13, CPJ wrote to President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressing alarm at the violence directed toward journalists and the antagonism of his government toward those who report critically. 

The Sri Lankan government has appointed a cabinet subcommittee under the chairmanship of Minister Sarath Amunugamato to address the ongoing attacks, and two police teams are investigating Perera’s case, according to Deshapriya. He said the Free Media Movement intends to treat this case as a litmus test of the effectiveness of government’s pledge to eradicate threats to journalists. Police say they have no leads so far.

 CPJ is a New York–based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.

Sri Lankan media offers reward for tips on attackers

 
 
July 02, 2008 (LBO) – The Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) and the Newspaper Publishers Association are offering a reward of five million rupees for information on the assault on journalist Namal Perera.
 
 
Informants could give information that lead to the arrest of the assailants by calling 0033 147 777 414 or sending emails to helppresssrilanka@gmail.com, representatives of the organisations told a news conference Wednesday.
The informants could remain anonymous and use a code to claim the reward, they said.

Freelance journalist Namal Perera, who writes about the ethnic war and also works for the SLPI, was clubbed along with UK embassy political officer Mahendra Ratnaweera and their car smashed by a group of unidentified men in broad daylight Monday.

They were hospitalised after the assault, the latest in a string of attacks on journalists, especially defence correspondents, which drew widespread condemnation.

The United States embassy said in a statement Tuesday that it condemned the attack, calling it a “brutal and unprovoked” attack and said it was concerned at the suppression of media which was essential for democracy.

Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement, a rights body, said Perera had narrowly escaped being abducted in the same way Keith Noyahr, defence correspondent of The Nation newspaper was abducted and beaten recently.
 
The US embassy and media groups have said they hoped that a ministerial committee appointed to look into complaints of harassment and death threats against media personnel would probe the latest assault.
 
 
 

Politicians, professionals condemn attacks on media

Wednesday, 02 July 2008 16:06
 
Political leaders, media workers, trade unionists and civil society activists took to the streets of Kollupitiya in Colombo this afternoon (July 02nd) and strongly condemned the continuing attacks on media personnel.
The Free Media Movement led five local media rights groups organized the agitation that came after the assault of journalist Namal Perera.

Mr. Perera, who is deputy head of the advocacy section of the Sri Lanka Press Institute and his friend Mahendra Ratnaweera, political head at the British Embassy in Colombo, were brutally attacked by a group of thugs on June 30th in Kirulapone.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and UNP strongmen Lakshman Kiriella, Ravi Karunanayake, Dayasiri Jayasekara, Ranjan Ramanayake as well as Rosie Senanayake, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader Rauff Hakeem, Western People’s Front leader Mano Ganeshan and Upulanganie Malagamuwa of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Mahajana Wing participated on invitation.

The protestors carried photographs of the SLPI journalist and marched from Kollupitiya Junction to Liberty Roundabout.

Speaking here, former Convener of the Free Media Movement Sunanda Deshapriya called for the immediate arrest of those responsible for the latest attack on journalists.

Otherwise, the government should take full responsibility for the incident, he said.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and other politicians at the event noted that there was a powerful government hand behind this attack.

(LankaDissent)
 

 

Assault on freedom of expression: media forum

 

B. Muralidhar Reddy (The Hindu)

COLOMBO: A senior journalist associated with the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) and the head of the Political Division of the British High Commission were here on Monday waylaid and brutally assaulted.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of attacks on journalists in recent weeks amid a raging controversy over a set of guidelines the Defence Ministry issued to the media on the norms to be followed in reporting the ongoing war.

In response to persistent demands from the media community for a fair and speedy investigation, the government last week appointed a ministerial sub-committee to look into the matter. The Committee was formed after the police failed to make any breakthrough in the assault and intimidation of over a dozen journalists.

The victims of the latest incident were deputy head of the advocacy section of SLPI Namal Perera and Mahendra Amaraweera, a Sri Lankan national working as head, political section of the British High Commission.

A van blocked the car near the Information Ministry. The occupants broke the wind shield of the car and attempted to abduct Mr. Perera.

Mr. Perera and Mr. Amaraweera were badly beaten up and are undergoing treatment. The latter has suffered head injuries and is being treated in the critical care unit.

Legal action
As the news spread, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition and United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, the British High Commissioner and scores of media personnel reached the hospital.

Publishers of the local media are to hold an emergency meeting to decide on the response to the spate of attacks. Journalist organisations are scheduled to hold a protest demonstration close to the President’s Office on Wednesday.

The Free Media Movement (FMM), a Colombo-based NGO concerned with the welfare of the media community, said 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 to Denmark as journalists.

“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,” said FMM Convener Sunanda Deshapriya.