Sri Lanka Minister Verbally Abuses Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists is appalled by a brutal verbal attack on Sri Lankan journalists by Government MP and Minister of Labour Mervyn Silva on March 20.

IFJ affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM) reports Silva threatened MTV/MBC journalists covering the opening of a flyover bridge in his electorate.

According to FMM reports, the Minister said when addressing News First journalists; “I am neither indebted to you, nor do I have anything to do with you and am not afraid of you. You are the most vagrant, despicable media institution in the country. Today, I point my finger at you. Hereafter I will raise my hand. Therefore, in the future, do not let me see you attending any function held in my electorate. I ask you who spread evil to find a place to hide.”

Susil Kindelpitiya, Director of News at MTV/MBC, has lodged a complaint with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) concerning the threat.

The IFJ urges the IGP to respond to the complaint as quickly as possible.

“The Minister of Labour has again shown his disregard for media freedoms by openly threatening media workers,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“The IFJ condemns such intimidation of media workers while doing their jobs. This incident is particularly worrying considering the Minister has allegedly been linked to numerous media freedom violations this year.”

The attack comes just days after the minister met with President Rajapakse and senior media trade union leaders and journalists and gave undertakings not to continue making such threats.

On December 27 2007 Silva was reported to have assaulted the news director of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), Sri Lanka’s main public television broadcaster. The assault was reportedly because the Minister was annoyed that offensive comments he had made at a rally were not broadcast.

The incident has triggered a wave of attacks against journalists at SLRC over the past three months. As many as 10 journalists, media workers and journalists’ leaders from other television stations and media have reportedly been targeted for their involvement in covering the December 27 incident and the subsequent media staff protests against Minister Silva.

“The Government and President of Sri Lanka must take action to curb these attacks and restore real media freedom in Sri Lanka,” said Park.

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

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries