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Notorious government minister threatens violence against television journalists

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 22 March 2008 FMM press release:

Retrograde Government MP threatens media again

22nd March 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka - The Free Media Movement (FMM) is deeply disturbed to hear that, on 20 March 2008, government MP and Minister of Labour Mervyn Silva, notorious for threatening media outlets and journalists, threatened MTV/MBC journalists covering the opening of a flyover bridge in his electoral district.

Addressing News First journalists, the Minister said: "I am not indebted to you, nor do I have anything to do with you, and I am not afraid of you. You are the most vagrant, despicable media institution in the country. Today, I point my finger at you. Hereafter, I will raise my hand. Therefore, in the future, do not let me see you attending any function held in my electorate. I ask you who spread evil to find a place to hide."

The FMM condemns this completely unwarranted and despicable threat of violence against media by an infamous MP best known for his flagrant and violent abuse of journalists with complete impunity. Furthermore, FMM considers the Minister's statement as a threat against the entire media community critical of him.

Susil Kindelpitiya, director of news at MTV/MBC, has already filed a complaint with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) on this open threat to their reporters. In his letter of complaint, Kindelpitiya states that: "This is to bring to your urgent and immediate attention that News First reporters and staff are being threatened by Minister Mervyn Silva. Given the numerous past instances of violent attacks against citizens and media institutions by Mervyn Silva, we are seriously concerned about threats to life and property of our staff. We therefore expect you to immediately and urgently investigate this issue and ensure justice."

All media outlets, other than those under government control, and many politicians, including those in the government ranks, have voiced their anger over the violence unleashed by this minister and his henchmen against media personnel. Given the ruling party's inability or unwillingness to take any disciplinary measures against the minister, the FMM can only believe that the minister's actions and statements are made with the tacit approval of the ruling regime. Further, given that this threat was made despite a promise made by the minister, in front of the president a few days prior at a meeting with senior media trade union leaders and journalists, to not inflict any further harm upon journalists, the FMM holds the president himself accountable for the minister's statement and actions.

The FMM asks all democratic forces to roundly condemn the minister's action and to pressure the ruling party and regime to take urgent and meaningful disciplinary measures against this retrograde MP as a sign of their commitment to democratic governance. The FMM also awaits eagerly the response of the IGP to the complaint filed by MTV/MBC since, to date, the IGP has been unable or unwilling to bring a single perpetrator of violence against media personnel to justice.

For further information on Mervyn Silva's violent attitude toward media, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/89407

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