The Sri Lanka Press Institute is deeply concerned at the unabated attempts to systematically stifle free expression in the country, through abductions and other types of harassment of the media.
In the space of a single day, this past week, the media faced attacks in the form of an attempted abduction, threat and an accusation of being an agent of the LTTE.
Lake House journalist, Poddala Jayantha’s home was visited in the early hours of Monday, January 7th, by group of persons dressed in civilian clothes, who claimed to be from the police, wanting to obtain information from him. They had come in two vehicles, one of which has been traced to the Matara police station, located more than a hundred kilometres from his residence. The group had left when Poddala Jayantha’s neighbours surrounded the place.
Meanwhile, the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper reported that it had received a threat over the ‘phone on January 6th. The caller is alleged to have demanded that the newspaper stop publication immediately, according to its Managing Director, E. Saravanapavan and had claimed to be calling from the Kayts police station.
At a press conference held on January 7th, EPDP leader, Minister for Social Services and Social Welfare, Douglas Devananda accused the Shakthi TV’s Minnal programme of being agents of the LTTE. He has called on the Inspector General of Police to question the host of the show, J Shri Ranga. While the TV station and the newspaper have faced many threats on previous occasions, Poddala Jayantha has been at the forefront of many a struggle to protect media freedom and human rights in the country.
Such allegations and threats act as a deterrent to fair and balanced reporting and denies the publics right to information – an important tool of democracy.
As stated on previous occasions, the SLPI stands together with the Free Media Movement, the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, the Tamil Media Alliance, and the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union and other media organisations in calling for an immediate halt to such acts of harassment and intimidation which continue to go unpunished.