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Protect the right to cover demonstrations; stop attacks on journalists

Media Release 15th February 2010

We, the 5 media organization in Sri Lanka express our serious concern that the police and unruly mobs who enjoy police protection are continuing to violate our peoples right to protest and journalists right to cover those protests. These rights are guaranteed by the constitution and duty of the police is to protect these rights.

On 11th February 2010 in Dehiatthakandiya police grabbed the TV cameras of journalist Sugath Wijerathna of Sirasa TV and K.H.M. Samathapala of Swarnavahini TV and erased the footage they had filmed on police attack on peaceful protesters. The protest was organised as a part of the island wide campaign for the release of General (Rtd) Sarath Fonseka.

On 14th February In Tangalla thugs protected by the police grabbed the cassettes of Ajith Pushpakumara of Siyatha group and Rahula Hemantha of SirasaTV while they were coving a another protest held for the same purpose. It has been reported to our organiations that journalists covering such protest campaigns had to face obstructions by police in number of other occasions too.

We, 5 media organizations condemn these acts of violence against journalists and media, emphasising that the police behavior in these incidents are clear violation of our people’s right to information. The continuous trend of attacking journalists covering demonstrations has increased the suppressive situation media and journalists in Sri Lanka has been facing during the last few years.

We urge all democratic forces to voice their concerns against this dangerous trend of police violating peoples right to information which in turn threaten the democratic values in our society.

We urge the Inspector General of Police to take immediate steps to stop this illegal behaviour of police.

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