The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is
outraged at the arrest of the owner and staff of a print-shop in Sri Lanka
on the eve of an important constitutional amendment debate in the national
the Free Media Movement (FMM), an
IFJ affiliate, the arrests followed a police raid on the shop, Sarala Graphics,
in Nugegoda town, neighbouring Colombo,
on the night of September 7. Eight workers of the print shop, including a
woman, were arrested. The police reportedly inquired about the whereabouts of
the owner of the print shop, but could not find him on the premises.
At the time
it was raided, the print shop was reportedly printing campaign posters opposing
the 18th amendment to the Sri Lankan
A few hours
later, around 3 am on September 8, a police party went to the residence of the
printer, Jayampathy Bulathsinhala. Finding that he was not present, they
arrested his wife and her two younger brothers. Bulathsinhala surrendered
before the local police station a few hours later and was remanded in custody.
His wife and her two brothers were released on bail that evening.
has said he was executing the print order for Sri Lanka’s
main opposition, the United National
Party (UNP). Mangala Samaraweera, a member of parliament and UNP media
coordinator, informed police that the poster was meant for public display as
legitimate campaign material, which was not against the law.
information from media and other sources, the arrests in Nugegoda cast a shadow
over the debate in parliament that followed, when bitter partisanship reportedly
dominated. Opposition members who chose to make a stand on issues of human
rights, including the right to free speech, were vilified.
The 18th amendment reverses many of the democratic reforms promised under the 17th amendment, adopted in 2001 and never fully implemented.
affiliates in Sri Lanka have
expressed concerns that the 18th amendment could have serious
implications for media freedom, as it puts the power to appoint many of the
autonomous oversight bodies envisaged for vital sectors of governance in the
hands of the President.
“The raid on
the premises of the printer and the mass arrests of staff speaks of a growing
threat to the free speech right in Sri Lanka,”
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
hopes for an improvement in the overall civil rights environment after the end
of the country’s civil war in May 2009.
“The IFJ demands
that the local police immediately discharge the printer, Jayampathy
Bulathsinhala, and all the others who were wrongly arrested.”
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific