The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demands immediate intervention by Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to order an end to Labour Minister Mervyn Silva’s anti-media campaign of interrogation and violence against Sirasa TV.
According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Silva reportedly organised a protest by about 100 people outside the Sirasa TV station in Colombo on August 11 to call for a ban on the broadcaster.
Sirasa TV has consistently reported on a series of verbal and physical attacks by Silva against journalists, most notably a violent confrontation between the Minister and the news director of the state-run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) in December 2007.
More recently, Silva assaulted Thushara Saliva Ranawaka, journalist, and Waruna Sampath, video cameraman, on August 4. As they reported on a bridge opening in Kelaniya, Silva’s verbal threats against them were recorded on a camera, which the Minister then reportedly confiscated.
The FMM reports that none of the numerous complaints against Silva filed with the Sri Lankan police have been investigated “in any meaningful manner”.
The IFJ said that Silva’s attacks on Sirasa TV are highly irresponsible, especially in an environment where Sirasa personnel have been confronting alarming risks and challenges from several quarters throughout 2008, including murder, death threats, harassment and intimidation, slander, and obstruction by local authorities.
“Silva’s openly malicious attitude toward the media and hate-inciting speech and behaviour is a gross disservice to the constitutionally guaranteed right to press freedom in Sri Lanka,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
“Any encouragement of violence against the media is irresponsible and potentially life-threatening for journalists in a country that has long been considered one of the most dangerous for the media profession.”
The IFJ joins the FMM in again calling on President Rajapaksa to demonstrate a commitment to uphold press freedom and protect the rights and safety of journalists in Sri Lanka by ensuring his appointed minister, Silva, ends immediately his violent campaign against Sirasa TV