Journalist arrested on uncorroborated statement by Sri Lankan Minister

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned about the well-being of staff reporter of The Sunday Leader, Arthur Wamanan, who was arrested yesterday and is still being held by police.


This kind of action could set a dangerous precedent for silencing journalists in Sri Lanka.


Wamanan was arrested last night over a news item published in The Sunday Leader relating to Minister Mano Wijeratne.


According to IFJ affiliate the Free Media Movement, Wamanan telephoned Minister Wijeratne on his mobile phone to get his comments regarding a story that appeared in the October 21st 2007 edition of The Sunday Leader titled "Minister gets Gem Authority to pay wife's roaming charges."

Minister Wijeratne has since lodged a complaint with the police against Wamanan accusing the journalist of trying to blackmail him for Rs.5 million by threatening to publish a story criticizing his wife. As the phone call was not recorded, the complaint is based on an uncorroborated report.


The IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said it was unacceptable and a direct intervention of press freedom for journalists to be detained based on uncorroborated claims made by politicians.


“This violation of basic freedoms could potentially create a frightening precedent whereby journalists are arrested on a whim whenever complaints are made by people in positions of power,” Park said.


Wamanan’s mother also was also taken into custody as the mobile used to call the Minister was registered in her name.


The IFJ supports its affiliate the FMM in expressing concern at this act and warning that this incident will have a negative impact on the entire media community and will create a different method of intimidation, harassment and arrests of journalists.

   


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


The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in more than 115 countries