Media Release: Sri
6 August 2013
The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) joins its partners and affiliates in Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement
(FMM) and the Sri Lanka Journalists’ Association (SLJA) in strongly condemning an
army crackdown on peaceful protests near the western town of Weliweriya which
has resulted in the death of three protesters and injuries to no fewer than
According to information received from partners
in Sri Lanka, peaceful protests were organised by residents of the Rathupaswala
village near Weliweriya town of Gampaha district in western Sri Lanka on August
1, against the contamination of drinking water in the area, possibly aggravated
by an industrial unit in their neighbourhood.
According to a statement issued by the SLJA, a
senior military officer in command of Sri Lankan army units in the vicinity
began issuing warnings to media personnel to vacate the area as the protests
began. Journalists were warned against taking photographs and videographing the
Units of the Sri Lankan army then allegedly
started firing without any provocation, killing a seventeen-year old schoolboy
on the spot and injuring several others. Two among the injured protesters died
in a Colombo hospital three days later.
The FMM reports that as they cracked down on the
protests, army personnel also turned their attention to journalists who had
gathered at the spot, with seeming intent to prevent them recording the
incidents. Fifteen journalists were injured and one female journalist had to
seek refuge in a village hut for an entire night to escape possible harm.
The SLJA also records a similar pattern of
behavior by the army units, who seemed to be specifically targeting media
personnel to prevent any possible public record of the events.
The demonstrators, according to the FMM, were
attacked from three main points with assault rifles and journalists were marked
for special attention along these three points of attack.
At one of the attack points, army personnel
forced a photographer from the Ada newspaper,
who was recording events from a rooftop to come down, following which he was
assaulted. Another photographer had the chip of his camera taken away.
The FMM and SLJA have described this incident as
further evidence of the continuing militarisation of post-war Sri Lankan
The IFJ supports its partners in their planned
campaign to join with other professional and civil society groups to restore
democratic governance and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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