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.