Hettiarachchi was covering protests by workers on a salt production site. During the protest, a group claiming to be supporters of the country’s ruling United National Party started to intimidate and obstruct Hettiarachchi. The next day, he lodged a complaint with the Hambantota Police Headquaters (CIB complaint no. 392/228) but claims police did not take the matter seriously.
“At the time of complaining the police told me not make this a big issue and to take it easy,” he said.
The incident occurred during Sri Lanka’s Black January Protests commemorating journalists killed by political violence and repression.
The IFJ said: “We stand with FMM in condemning the intimidation of Rahul Samantha Hettiarachchi and the obstruction of his duties as a reporter by a political group. We urge the relevant authorities in Sri Lanka to conduct a full, proper and immediate investigation into this issue and to prosecute those involved. Press freedom is an extremely serious issue and repression of journalists must not be taken lightly.”