The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today strongly
condemned the attack on the studios and facilities of the Maharaja group of
media enterprises in the Pannipitiya suburb of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, during the early
hours of January 6.
According to reports received from IFJ affiliates in Sri Lanka, more than a dozen armed intruders entered the premises and overpowered the security guards who were held at gunpoint and one among them was badly beaten.
They forced one of the guards to open the door to the main control room of the three TV and four radio channels that the media group operates. They fired at random, detonating a hand grenade and setting off a violent blaze with the seeming intent of disrupting all transmission from the facility.
"We condemn these outrageous acts of wanton violence and demand that those who are responsible be identified and brought to justice," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White.
The IFJ is also calling on the authorities to tone down their political rhetoric which may be increasing tension.
"We are concerned that recent inflammatory statements by senior ministers and officials of the Sri Lankan government may have created the climate for this latest violation of the right to free speech," said White.
The IFJ says the intemperate language of official spokespersons and state-owned media calling into question the patriotism and professional credentials of independent media organisations is adding to tensions..
The Daily News, a paper of the state-owned Lake House group, ran an item on January 3 criticising Sirasa TV - the Sinhala language channel of the Maharaja group - over its coverage of the Sri Lankan armed forces' military victory over Tamil Tiger insurgents in the north of the country. Later that day petrol bombs were hurled at the offices of the media group.
Labour Minister in the Sri Lankan cabinet has in the recent past referred to Sirasa TV as the "Tiger" channel and ejected its personnel from official functions and sometimes physically attacked them.
The IFJ says there is a ban on Sirasa TV journalists seeking to attend official media briefings by Defence Ministry officials.
"The government must
end its barely unveiled hostility towards independent media which is encouraging
mob violence against journalists," added White.
A correspondent for the TV channel in the north, P. Devakumar, was hacked to death near the city of Jaffna in May 2008. Nobody has yet been booked for the crime.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries