The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM) in condemning the inaction of the police while a TV journalist was threatened inside a police station in Sri Lanka on September 27. The IFJ demands that the authorities immediately investigate the incident.
Ranjith Karunaweera, a journalist with Hiru TV in Mahiyanganaya of Badulla District in Uva Province of central Sri Lanka, was threatened over a news story by a group of people when he arrived at the Hasalaka police station to give his statement in a case filed against him.
Local sand miners had filed a complaint at the police station after Karunaweera’s news report on illegal sand mining in the Mahaweli river bed and how it threatened the environment and stability of Weraganthota bridge. His story showed visuals of heavy machinery being used for sand mining although the use of heavy machinery is prohibited.
The police summoned Karunaweera for a statement and upon his arrival, a group of nearly two dozen sand miners used abusive language and threatened to kill him. Other journalists who accompanied him and were waiting outside the police station led him to safety. Following the intimidation, Karunaweera filed a complaint at the Mahiyanganaya Police Station against the Hasalaka police for not acting upon the death threats.
FMM convener Seetha Ranjanee and secretary C. Dodawaththa in a statement said, “The police officers in the station did not take any action to stop the threats. The FMM expresses its displeasure over the police for not taking appropriate action against the violent behavior of the sand miners and for acting in favor of them.”
The FMM requested the Inspector General of Police to order an unbiased investigation into the incident and demanded necessary action to ensure personal safety of journalists. The FMM added, “Instead of inquiring into the threats, the police supported the creation of a threatening environment for the journalist.”
Condemning the sand mining lobby for threatening and intimidating a journalist from carrying out his duty, and the Sri Lanka police for allowing such intimidation within the police precincts, the IFJ said, “Such incidents undermine journalists’ safety and their ability to report without fear. The IFJ demands immediate investigation into the case and appropriate punishment to those found guilty.”
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