Threats Against Journalists After Sri Lanka Government Minister's Brawl

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is appalled at another attempt to intimidate journalists working for the state-owned television broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) since a violent altercation at the SLRC offices was instigated by a government minister in December.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, the Assistant Director of News Camera at SLRC, Priyal Ranjith Perera, was reportedly threatened at his home in Pitakotte by a gang of four men who attempted to attack him with a knife.

Perera was involved in videotaping an incident in which the Minister for Labour, Mervyn Silva, forcibly entered SLRC’s offices and assaulted news director T.M.G. Chandrasekara on December 27, 2007. The attack was reportedly because SLRC did not telecast one of the Minister’s speeches. Perera told the FMM that he has felt under threat since that time.

The latest attack follows reports that another journalist involved in writing English language articles about Silva’s actions received threatening phone calls on February 13 and 17 and is being watched and followed. Susil Kedelpitiya, of Sirasa Television, told the FMM that he noticed a group of unknown people watching his home and car on the morning of February 14. He was later threatened by a driver in a pick-up vehicle and was followed by a hostile group that forcibly opened his car in an apparent attempt to harm him.

These incidents bring to five the number of confirmed cases of a journalist reporting a threat or attack in relation to coverage of the December 27 incident. The FMM reports that many more have been threatened but fear to speak out publicly. Twenty-one SLRC journalists have been questioned to date by police about the incident.

“It is deplorable that any person, let alone a public figure and local authorities, would actively pursue journalists with violence and intimidation for reporting on an issue of the public interest,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.

“The Sri Lankan police must instigate an immediate and thorough investigation, including a disciplinary hearing, so that the minister and all those responsible for revenge attacks are stopped and held accountable for their actions.”  

The IFJ joins the FMM and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), also an IFJ affiliate, in demanding the police and authorities ensure higher levels of safety and security for journalists at the SLRC and all those involved in reporting the infamous incident.

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

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries