By Susitha R. Fernando
MTV Channel, and one of its journalists who was allegedly attacked, have filed two fundamental rights applications in the Supreme Court against Minister Mervyn Silva and the IGP, claiming Rs. 110 millions as compensation.
MTV Channel (Pvt) Limited and MTV journalist J. K. A. Waruna Sampath filed these applications citing Labour Relations and Manpower Minister Mervyn Silva, Peliyagoda Police SSP K. D. Somapala, The Inspector General of Police, Peliyagoda Police HQI Jagath Rohana and the Attorney General as respondents.
The petitioners complained that Mervyn Silva manhandled, assaulted and forcibly snatched two video cameras from media personnel attached to the television company who were present to cover the ceremonial opening of the second stage of the flyover bridge at Kelaniya on August 8, 2008, on an official government invitation.
They complained that the media personnel were subjected to cruel and degrading and inhuman treatment and their freedom of movement and freedom of expression were violated by the respondent.
The petitioners stated that, when they were at the scene to cover the ceremony, Mr. Silva had come there and told the MTV media personnel to leave the place. When they informed him that they had come at the invitation of the media secretary of the Minister of Road Development, their cameras had been snatched. When the media personnel protested Mr. Mervyn Silva had grabbed Waruna Sampath by his collar and asked for the cassettes.
This unlawful incident had taken place in the presence of senior law enforcing officials and, unfortunately, instead of providing security they had left the place despite the victimised media personnel pleading for help. Later, when the petitioner went to make a complaint to Peliyagoda SSP D. Somapala, he had asked the media personnel why they had come to Kelaniya when Mervyn Silva had ordered them not to.
The petitioners also stated that President Mahinda Rajapaksa and several senior government ministers and other groups had condemned Mervyn Silva’s alleged conduct.
The petitioners complained that their fundamental right to freedom of expression had been infringed due to the attack by the minister and the failure of the police to enforce law and order. They asked court to declare that intimidation by Mervyn Silva against the MTV journalist and his colleagues and his seizure of the cameras and cassettes were wrongful and illegal.
Journalist Waruna Sampath claimed Rs. 10 million as compensation while MTV asked for Rs. 100 million.