Journalists Harassed and Attacked as Army Cracks Down on Peaceful Protesters

Media Release: Sri

Lanka                                                                                   

6 August 2013           

 

The International Federation of Journalists

(IFJ) joins its partners and affiliates in Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement

(FMM) and the Sri Lanka Journalists’ Association (SLJA) in strongly condemning an

army crackdown on peaceful protests near the western town of Weliweriya which

has resulted in the death of three protesters and injuries to no fewer than

fifteen journalists.

 

According to information received from partners

in Sri Lanka, peaceful protests were organised by residents of the Rathupaswala

village near Weliweriya town of Gampaha district in western Sri Lanka on August

1, against the contamination of drinking water in the area, possibly aggravated

by an industrial unit in their neighbourhood.

 

According to a statement issued by the SLJA, a

senior military officer in command of Sri Lankan army units in the vicinity

began issuing warnings to media personnel to vacate the area as the protests

began. Journalists were warned against taking photographs and videographing the

protests.

 

Units of the Sri Lankan army then allegedly

started firing without any provocation, killing a seventeen-year old schoolboy

on the spot and injuring several others. Two among the injured protesters died

in a Colombo hospital three days later.

 

The FMM reports that as they cracked down on the

protests, army personnel also turned their attention to journalists who had

gathered at the spot, with seeming intent to prevent them recording the

incidents. Fifteen journalists were injured and one female journalist had to

seek refuge in a village hut for an entire night to escape possible harm.

 

The SLJA also records a similar pattern of

behavior by the army units, who seemed to be specifically targeting media

personnel to prevent any possible public record of the events.

 

The demonstrators, according to the FMM, were

attacked from three main points with assault rifles and journalists were marked

for special attention along these three points of attack.

 

At one of the attack points, army personnel

forced a photographer from the Ada newspaper,

who was recording events from a rooftop to come down, following which he was

assaulted. Another photographer had the chip of his camera taken away.

 

The FMM and SLJA have described this incident as

further evidence of the continuing militarisation of post-war Sri Lankan

society.

 

The IFJ supports its partners in their planned

campaign to join with other professional and civil society groups to restore

democratic governance and freedom of expression in Sri Lanka.

 

 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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