Attacks Against Sri Lankan Journalists Signal Choking Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its anger and called upon the government to act immediately in relation to the recent reports of several attacks and threats made against Sri Lankan journalists over the space of a week.

“So long as journalists continue to be subjected to fear and attacks on their personal security, Sri Lanka cannot be assured of a free press that is capable of serving the public’s fundamental right to know”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

Defence reporter subject to acid attack
According to IFJ affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM), defence reporter and military affairs specialist for Tamil language daily Thnakkural, K.P. Mohan, was admitted to hospital suffering acid burns.

On his way home from the Colombo hospital to which he was later acquitted, Mohan reports that an unknown gang attacked him with acid at 3pm on August 15.

The attack follows two consecutive reports of assault on Mohan by Air Force personnel after a dispute regarding his media accreditation card on June 29 and 30.

The IFJ has received many reports of Tamil journalists subjected to harassment and assault in their daily work by security forces and militant groups, with every journalist except one killed between 2001 and February 2007 being Tamil, the IFJ report.

Exposure of corruption lands journalist in hot water
The IFJ urges the authorities to step up protection for journalists suffering harassment.

Defence correspondent and assistant editor of The Sunday Times, Iqbal Athas, was given police protection after a series of threats by members of security forces angered by his exposure of ams deals.

Athas exposed a deal involving the purchase of Mig 27 fighter jets and was accused of creating a national security threat in doing so.

The FMM believe the removal of Athas’ police protection, announced on August 16, to be retribution for his exposure of the deal.

Journalists dealt with force by police
According to FMM reports, three journalists covering turmoil in Mayuarapura, Hambatona, were forcibly treated and removed from the news scene by police on August 16.

Reporters Sahampathi Manage of Sirasa TV, Kulasingha Chaminda of ABC radio and Sanjeewa Mathaweea of Swarnawahini, whose official complaint has not yet been investigated, allege police used batons with force.

Minister threatens journalist over article
Journalist Jafrall Askhant of Tamil daily Werakesari was allegedly threatened with abduction and to be “finished off” by Minister K.A. Faiz in regards to what Faiz believes to be an inaccurate article on August 10.

The FMM believe Minister Faiz’s threat is not an isolated example of the Sri Lankan government’s anti-media behaviour and that practices such as issuing malicious threats, inciting biased reporting and repression of information by violence are fast becoming the norm in government dealings with the media.

“Such malicious attacks are rapidly serving as a fearful reminder to all journalists of the consequences associated with critical reporting, which therefore signifies that the Sri Lankan press is by no means free from political intimidation”, Park said.

The IFJ support the FMM and the broader media community in urging the government to make a thorough investigation into the incidents in hope to apprehend the culprits.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries