The Free Media Movement (FMM) notes that brutish Government Minister Mervyn Silva organized a protest against the MBC network’s Sirasa television station in Colombo on 11th August 2008. Around one hundred men, women and children were bussed in to the city centre from the Minister’s constituency of Kelaniya. The protest was given wide publicity by all State media justifying the allegations made by the Minister against the private media station in their commentary and reportage.
Amongst the Minister’s demands was a ban on the Sirasa TV station. Sirasa TV coverage has consistently covered this Minister’s violence against the media, most notably the attack against State owned TV broadcaster Rupavahini in December 2007. For this, the station has borne the brunt of the Minister’s wrath, with journalists repeatedly abused and violently attacked at public functions that it has covered with the Minister present.
Supporters of the Minister at the orchestrated rally in Colombo shouted slogans that said they were the indomitable force of the President and alleged that the Sirasa television station is pro-LTTE.
This allegation has been repeatedly levelled against all critics of the Government and protest movements including trade unions, for a range of initiatives agitating for higher wages and human rights protection. Although several complaints have been made by Sirasa TV against the Minister, none of them have been investigated in any meaningful manner.
The FMM considers the disingenuous rally and spurious allegations by the Minister as a continuation of his attacks against independent journalists in Sri Lanka. We note that this Minister, his supporters and those of his ilk in government enjoy the spoils of unprecedented impunity coupled with the inability and unwillingness of the President, the government and the Police to reign them in. As it is very clear that the Minister enjoys presidential patronage, the FMM holds the President and his government and president responsible for actions.
The FMM appeals to all democratic forces and political parties to campaign for the removal of Minister Mervyn Silva from the cabinet and to demand that Police initiate impartial and speedy investigations into all attacks against journalists by him.