The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliates in Sri Lanka in condemning the arrest of defence commentator and columnist Ruwan Weerakoon by the Terrorist Investigation Division of the country’s police force.
According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Weerakoon is a defence analyst who contributes to two prominent English-language publications and was considered to have a close association with the former army commander and President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s principal opponent in the recent presidential election, General (retired) Sarath Fonseka.
This was in the nature of a professional relationship originating in the last phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war, when Fonseka commanded the Sri Lankan army.
In a statement issued by the FMM and its partner organisations under the Five Media Organisation collective, Weerakoon’s arrest was characterised as “politically motivated victimisation”.
The Five Media Organisation collective comprises of the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), all IFJ affiliates, the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF).
“The IFJ joins the demand that the authorities in Sri Lanka should at once disclose the reasons for Weerakoon’s arrest and ensure that he has unimpeded access to legal advice,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“We request his Excellency the President of Sri Lanka to clear the air in this matter, in line with his purported advice to the security agencies and police force last month that any action involving media personnel should have his prior clearance.”