19th July 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is extremely displeased to report the assault of two more journalists and the harassment of another by government officials.
The journalists were covering the illegal demolishing of hundreds of homes in Colombo on 18th July under the guise of providing security for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting later this month.
On the afternoon of the 18th, Urban Development Authority (UDA) officials assaulted journalist Yohan Perera and photographer Pradeep Dilrukshana from the Daily Mirror newspaper and harassed TV journalist Dushantha Manoj from Sirasa TV. They were all covering the violent demolishing of the homes. Yohan Perera from the Daily Mirror was admitted to Colombo General Hospital after having sustained injuries from the attack.
Hundreds of police personnel at the scene were unable to stop these assaults against journalists. There is a mentality amongst all government officials given rise to by the action of those high up in the Government and the ruling party that they can, at their whim and fancy, assault journalists with complete impunity.
We see this incident as a sign of the absolute intolerance towards any independent coverage of critical issues related to democratic governance. It is the open policy of this government to quell dissent by violence. The impunity and the lack of any meaningful measures to address this violence against journalists places independent and professional voices in the media community in a very precarious position in Sri Lanka today.