Thursday, August 14, 2008

IFJ demands Sri Lankan President to end Minister's anti-media campaign

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded immediate intervention by Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to order an end to Labour Minister Mervyn Silva's anti-media campaign of interrogation and violence against Sirasa TV.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Minister Silva reportedly organized a protest with about 100 people outside the Sirasa TV station in Colombo on August 11 to call for a ban on the broadcaster.

Sirasa TV has consistently reported on a series of verbal and physical attacks by Silva against journalists, most notably a violent confrontation between the Minister and the news director of the state-run Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) in December 2007.

More recently, Silva assaulted journalist Thushara Saliya Ranawaka and video cameraman Waruna Sampath, on August 4 while they were reporting on a bridge opening in Kelaniya. Silva’s verbal threats against them were recorded on a camera, which was reportedly confiscated by the Minister.

Political observers say the minister is emboldened by the support of President Rajapaksa and his government turning a blind eye to his roguish behavior. They say the minister brings the party to disgrace by his thuggish actions.