Home Invasion May Be Attempt to Intimidate Sri Lankan Journalists

 The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Free Media Movement in stressing concerns about alleged links between the ransacking of the home of two journalists on March 16 and a series of assaults and threats apparently related to media coverage of a government minister attacking staff at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) in December.


Nothing was stolen when the home of Sunethra Athugalpura, of Lakbima newspaper, and her husband, Sashi Kumara, a Sirasa TV news producer, was ransacked by unknown people. The couple said they believed the intrusion was intended as intimidation.


Kumara edited video visuals of the December 27 incident in which Labour Minister Mervyn Silva assaulted SLRC news director TMG Chandrasekara in a melee at the state broadcaster’s office. The visuals were broadcast by Sirasa TV.


Atugalpura, a political reporter, has covered many controversial issues. She interviewed Labour Minister Mervyn Silva after the December incident.


The FMM, an IFJ affiliate, suspects the ransacking of the couple’s is linked to the SLRC case.


Journalists and staff of SLRC and other media outlets have been targeted with threats and intimidation since the December 27 incident.


Six journalists and staff members at SLRC are reported to have suffered physical assault or attempted attacks. Aside from Kumara and Atugalpura, up to 10 journalists, media workers and journalists’ leaders from other television stations and media also have been reportedly targeted for their involvement in covering the melee and subsequent media staff protests against Minister Silva.

 

“The Government has willingly or unwillingly failed to act on the rule of law in any of the attacks on media,” the FMM said in a statement.

 

“The ransacking of the home of Sunethra Athugalpura and Sashi Kumara appears to be an attempt to warn journalists against independent reporting,” said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.


In the face of continuing threats, assaults and intimidation of journalists and media by state and non-state actors in Sri Lanka, the IFJ and the FMM call on the Government to act on its duty to create an enabling environment for media practitioners to perform their work without fear of violence and retaliation.


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


The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries