IFJ Condemns Attack on Private TV Channel in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today strongly

condemned the attack on the studios and facilities of the Maharaja group of

media enterprises in the Pannipitiya suburb of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, during the early

hours of January 6.

According to reports received from IFJ affiliates in Sri Lanka, more than a dozen armed

intruders entered the premises and overpowered the security guards who were

held at gunpoint and one among them was badly beaten.  

They forced one of the guards to open the door to the main control room

of the three TV and four radio channels that the media group operates. They

fired at random, detonating a hand grenade and setting off a violent blaze with

the seeming intent of disrupting all transmission from the facility.

"We condemn these outrageous acts of wanton violence and demand that those

who are responsible be identified and brought to justice," said IFJ General

Secretary Aidan White.

The IFJ is also calling on the authorities to tone down their political

rhetoric which may be increasing tension.

"We are concerned that recent inflammatory statements by senior

ministers and officials of the Sri Lankan government may have created the

climate for this latest violation of the right to free speech," said White.

The IFJ says the intemperate language of official spokespersons and  state-owned media calling into question the

patriotism and professional credentials of independent media organisations is

adding to tensions..

The Daily News, a paper of 

the state-owned Lake

House group, ran an item

on January 3 criticising Sirasa TV - the Sinhala language channel of the

Maharaja group - over its coverage of the Sri Lankan armed forces' military

victory over Tamil Tiger insurgents in the north of the country. Later that day

petrol bombs were hurled at the offices of the media group.

Labour Minister in the Sri Lankan cabinet has in the recent past  referred to Sirasa TV as the "Tiger" channel

and ejected its personnel from official functions and  sometimes physically attacked them.

The IFJ says there is a ban on Sirasa TV journalists seeking to attend

official media briefings by Defence Ministry officials.


"The government must

end its barely unveiled hostility towards independent media which is encouraging

mob violence against journalists," added White.

A correspondent for the TV channel in the north, P. Devakumar, was

hacked to death near the city of Jaffna

in May 2008. Nobody has yet been booked for the crime.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000

journalists in 123 countries