3RD LEAD (ADDS FMM STATEMENT)

SLRC Deputy Director attacked in Colombo

[TamilNet, Friday, 14 March 2008, 08:24 GMT]
A group of unknown men Friday morning around 8:45 a.m. attacked the Deputy Director of Sri Lanka state-owned Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC), Anurasri Hettige, the trade union leader and a JVP supporter, at Kottiyawatta. Employees at the SLRC have started a protest against alleged targeted attacks by unknown men on journalists and staff of the station, who participated and covered a spontaneous protest on 27 December when Mervy Silva, the SL Minister of Labour was retaliated when he reportedly went amok on a news editor at the station.

Anurasiri Hettige was rushed to Colombo hospital with wounds in his neck. The attackers have used iron rod to attack Mr. Anurasiri Hettige, Police said.

The TV station has canceled special and live broadcast services following the protest launched by the staff.

Special Task Force and Police security has been beefed up at the premises of the SLRC.

Rupavahini staff have sent an urgent appeal to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Free Media Movement, a Colombo based media watchdog, issued the following statement on Friday:

Continuing attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka require Presidential intervention

14th March 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is outraged at yet another murderous attack on a journalist at the State owned Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) today. Journalist Arunasiri Hettige, Assistant Director (Supplies) of SLRC, was attacked early this morning on his way to work at a bus stop near Kottikawatta, a Colombo suburb. A club affixed to a sharp object on his neck was used to attack him. He was admitted to the Colombo National Hospital for emergency medical treatment.

Journalist Hettige was a represented the SLRC Workers Union at a meeting held on 13th March with the Defence Secretary, Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the Police Spokesperson N. K. Illangakoon, the Chairman of SLRC Ariyarathna Athugala and other Union Leaders regarding the infamous Mervyn Silva incident in December 2007.

The continuing attacks against journalists who were part of a spontaneous resistance against the unprecedented and brutish intrusion by Government MP Mervyn Silva and his posse of thugs on 27th December 2007 at SLRC beggars belief.

It is quite clear that law enforcement agencies are unable and unwilling to stop these series of attacks or arrest the culprits. While the journalists who stood up against the outrageous actions of the Government MP have been attacked, questioned and detained by the Police ˆ the chief culprit enjoys complete immunity from the rule of law.

This is an untenable situation. The F MM holds the President directly accountable for the actions of those in his Government and the safety and security of all media personnel, particularly those who took part in the agitations against MP Mervyn Silva at SLRC. F urther, we hold the President directly responsible for the safety and security of these journalists given the inability and the unwillingness of the Police to bring the underworld gangs responsible for these attacks to book.

At a time when the such attacks are taking place with complete impunity and in broad daylight, it is laughably tragic and grossly inappropriate that the Government even contemplates a national media policy without first ensuring the security of journalists and through it, the freedom of expression and media freedom. This is an open and urgent appeal for Presidential intervention in a situation already out of control. It is only a matter of time before another journalist is attacked and pays for standing up for democratic values and media freedom with his or her life.

We also call upon all journalists, especially those at SLRC, to unite and stand together in solidarity against those who seek to silence them through fear and intimidation. We note that it is only through the transformation of SLRC to an institution able to provide accurate, impartial and fair news and information without State control that incidents of this nature can be prevented in the future.


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