The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the assault of MTV/SIRASA Aralaganvila provincial correspondent Wijerathna Podibanda by authorities on Saturday, July 14.
According to an IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM), Wijerathna was threatened and assaulted by a group of officials from the Mahaweli authority after attempting to capture events surrounding the sale of the Aralaganvila Children’s Park. Wijerathna had reported previously on the sale of the park.
IFJ Asia Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said the incident highlights Sri Lanka’s contempt for journalists’ work and safety, reinforced by a culture of impunity that protects those who commit violence against media workers.
“This is a clear violation of press freedom and an abuse of power by the Sri Lankan authorities,” Park said.
Despite producing his media accreditation card on arrival, the officials reportedly confiscated some of Wijerathna’s equipment after assaulting him, according to the FMM.
Wijerathna lodged a report with the Aralaganvila police after the attack, but despite the detention of some suspects, only minimal action has been taken by the regional Mahawell manager.
“The Sri Lankan authorities must take a proactive role in investigating these incidents and bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Park said.
“The Sri Lankan people deserve to have access to truthful reports about their government, and their journalists should be able to provide them in a safe environment without fear of violence,” she said.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries