SC allows FR petition against Mervyn -Alleged assault on MTV crew at Kelaniya


(Daily Mirror – 05th Sep)

The Supreme Court yesterday granted leave to proceed with the rights violation petitions filed by the MTV television channel and its journalist against Minister Mervyn Silva and the IGP, claiming Rs. 110 million as compensation.

The Bench comprising Justices, Asoka de Silva, Saleem Marsoof and K. Sripavan granted leave to the MTV Channel to proceed with the petition on the alleged infringement of the fundamental rights to equality and equal protection of the law and right to the freedom of speech and expression and freedom to engage in lawful occupation and trade etc., and the freedom of movement.Court granted leave to the journalist for infringement of above fundamental rights in addition to the right to the freedom from torture. There were five intervenient petitions filed in support of these petitions. The matter was listed for hearing on December 4.

Sanjeeva Jayawardena with Rajeev Amarasuriya, Manoj Bandara and Dehan Hewawithana instructed by Sudath Perera Associates appeared for the petitioners.

Deputy Solicitor General, Demuni De Silva appeared for the Attorney General. Uditha Egalahewa, M.A. Sumanthiran, Ms. Ruwana Rajapakse, Chandaka Jayasuriya and J.C. Weliamuna appeared for the intervenient petitioners Free Media Movement, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Institute of Human Rights, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Union and Federation of Media Employees Trade Union respectively.

MTV channel and its media personnel J.K.A. Waruna Sampath cited Minister Mervyn Silva, Peliyagoda SSP K.D. Somapala, IGP, Peliyagoda HQI, Jagath Rohana and the Attorney General as respondents.

Petitioners complained that Minister Mervyn Silva manhandled and assaulted and forcibly snatched two video cameras from the media personnel of the MTV channel who were present to cover the ceremonial opening of second stage of the Fly-Over Bridge at Kelaniya on August on official government invitation.

Petitioner Waruna Sampath stated that his employer on July 31 received communication from the Media Unit of Ministry of Highways and Road Development on the said ceremonial opening of the said fly-over bridge and that on August 1 received further communication from the said Media Unit requesting to provide media coverage for the said event.

On August 4, they received another invitation from the Department of Information to deploy a media team to cover the said event.

He stated the said opening was to be held at the very same location in Kelaniya where Minister Mervyn Silva had abusively threatened MTV and its personnel not to attend any government function within the Kelaniya electorate.

The Petitioner Sampath stated he expressed concerns for his safety to News Director, Susil Kindelpitiya who in turn contacted by telephone Highways Minister’s Media Secretary, Shirantha Premawardane and inquired as to whether adequate security would be provided to MTV media personnel.

He said the Media Secretary, Premawardane had told News Director Kindelpitiya that there was no need for concern and that he himself would be present at the ceremony.

He stated in view of his re-assurance as well as the fact that the function was a state one which was to be graced by the Prime Minister, he and the MTV were confident that there would be no threat to him and consequently agreed to cover the event.

The Petitioner was detailed to cover the said event together with another camera assistant Deeptha Ranasinghe and MTV provincial correspondent Saliya Ranawaka.

He said while he was recording the events/activities just prior to the ceremonial opening, Minister Mervyn Silva together with his security contingent and associates, arrived at the location of the said government function and told the MTV media personnel to leave the place.

He said Minister Mervyn Silva then came closer to the petitioner and first asked for the video cassette and tried to forcibly seize his video camera which was the property of MTV and when the petitioner refused to release the video cassette or camera, several associates of the Minister surrounded him and grabbed him by his shirt collar. He said at the location of the above incident, SSP Somapala was present but walked away from the said location without rendering any assistance or protection.

The Petitioner said consequent to the attack inter alia upon his genital region, he was admitted to the Colombo National Hospital.

He also complained the IGP conspicuously failed or neglected to intervene to prevent Minister Mervyn Silva or his associates from blatantly manhandling and assaulting him and his colleagues.


Mahanayaka Thera supports media

The Mahanayaka thera of the Malwatte Chapter the Ven.Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Thera has stressed the need to excert pressure on government to stop threat to media freedom in Sri Lanka.

Secretary general of the Working Journalists Association (WJA) Poddala Jayantha who met Most Venerable Thibbotuwawe Sri Sumangala Maha Thera on Monday said that they met the venarable thera to brief on the present situation faced by the media in Sri Lanka.

He said they are now meeting religious leaders to make them aware of the pressures and threats that they have faced with, and seek their blessings.

Losing democratic rights

Poddala Jayantha said, “suppression of media has left public without reliable information and this is a sign of losing democratic rights”.

The journalists requested the prelate to intervene and advise the politicians against the attacks on free media.

“Maha Nayaka Thero is aware of the incidents and told us that he will request the president to take action to stop attacking media”, said Poddala Jayantha

Journalists working for state television network were attacked following an incident involving Minister Mervin Silva last December.