9th September 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is appalled to note and strongly condemns the attempt made on the life of journalist Radhika Devakumar in Batticaloa in the late evening of 8th September.
A gang of unidentified gunmen entered her house around 7.30pm and shot her at point blank range. They fired three shots that entered her shoulder, abdomen and chest injuring her critically. Family members were able to transport her immediately to the teaching hospital of Batticaloa, where emergency medical care saved her life. She is still in the Intensive Care Unit.
Radhika was working as a provincial correspondent for the Tinakaran Tamil language daily, published from Colombo for last the 8 years. She also worked as freelancer for Shakthi TV and ran her own media development organisation in close proximity to Batticaloa town. During 2005 – 2007 she worked as a radio programme producer for Internews. In 2007 she won the national award for Reporting Diversity and Respect for Tolerance, in a public service media award programme organised by the five leading media organizations in Sri Lanka. She was also the media secretary for Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurei Chandrakanthan of the TMVP in June this year. She was the media secretary of another minster in the Eastern Provincial Council at the time of attack.
The FMM has consistently noted that journalists cannot and should not take up partisan political positions, hold public office or function as advisors to party political groups as it invariably informs their frame of reference and undermines accurate and impartial journalism. Journalists must be independent and impartial.
However, intimidation, harassment and death threats to journalists, especially Tamil journalists, have been on the rise over past two and a half years. Although more than dozen journalists and media workers have been killed during this period, not a single case has been investigated to completion. Disturbingly, we now see a pervasive culture in Sri Lanka where disagreements (especially with journalists) default to violence and intimidation as a means of resolution, and with complete impunity.
This must stop. Condemning this brutal attack, we demand that the government initiates an independent and open inquiry into this shooting. The failure to protect journalists in Sri Lanka is a sign that the rule of law is hostage to armed groups and does not bode well for any sustainable and meaningful peace in Sri Lanka.