The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) unequivocally condemns actions by senior Sri Lankan police to intimidate, abuse and humiliate journalists who report in the public interest.
The Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, reports that a senior police officer, Inspector Mahesh Perera, abused and assaulted Sugath Dharmapriya, a news producer of Derana TV, who was reporting from the scene of a bomb blast in Colombo on February 23.
Perera reportedly threw Dharmapriya onto the street and shouted that the journalist needed to be chased away from the bomb site, forcing Dharmapriya to leave the scene fearing for his safety.
According to the FMM, Perera was involved in a similar incident a month ago, when he reportedly detained television journalist Aravinda Sri Nissanka for two hours without charge.
The FMM said Dharmapriya tried to lodge a complaint about the incident with Mount Lavinia Police, but police said they would not accept complaints against superior officers.
“Reports of such unprofessional behaviour by a senior member of the police is a telling marker of the significant deterioration in law and order in Sri Lanka,“ said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park.
“Police officers who use their position to silence, intimidate and hurt journalists demonstrate the inability and unwillingness of state authorities to respect and strengthen media freedom, which is a key element of human rights.”
At a time when media personnel and journalists face growing fear and violence in a country that is one of the most dangerous in the world for journalists, the IFJ demands that Perera and his colleagues refrain from violating the rights of journalists and set a positive example to other police.
The IFJ joins the FMM in reminding Sri Lanka’s authorities that journalists reporting in the public interest on events that have a bearing on national security and transparent governance should not be impeded in their work or fear for their safety at the hands of authorities.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries