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Jaffna-based freelance reporter receives death threat; journalists threatened in Hatton, Ampara and Uva, one briefly detained

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 17 May 2007 FMM press release:

Provincial correspondents threatened and harassed

The Free Media Movement expresses serious concern at the continuous threats and harassment directed toward regional and provincial journalists by various power groups. Over the past few weeks, a number of provincial journalists had encountered difficulties in gathering and reporting news from the provinces.

While covering a train accident, Ranjith Rajapakshe, a provincial correspondent based in Hatton, who works for electronic and print media institutions, was threatened by prison officers and arrested on 16 May 2007 under a complaint made by very same prison officers. He was released the same night due to the intervention by journalists organisations.

Rajapakshe had received dead threats for his reportage on corruption for some time. A year ago, a joint media protest was held in Kandy against these threats.

Another incident was reported from Ampara on the same day. Supporters of minister P. Dayarathne threatened the "Lankadeepa" Ampara correspondent Nawarathne Samarathuna regarding one of his articles. Samarathunga has lodged a complaint with the Ampara police regarding the incident.

The Uva provincial minister, D.D.W Wickramarathne, threatened journalists who covered the provincial council meeting on 10 May. The Environment Journalists' Association of Badulla issued a statement condemning the intimidating behaviour of the minister. In a letter to the chief minister of the Uva provincial council, the Free Media Movement (FMM) requested him to look in to this matter. To date, we have had no response from the chief minister.

(On 16 May a political group connected to the government threatened to kill Jaffna-based provincial freelance journalist Navarathnam Parameshwaran. Parameshvaran has filed a complaint with the Jaffna police regarding this incident, which occurred after a verbal dispute with the members of this particular group over a news item he had provided to a Jaffna newspaper.)

Condemning all these acts against media freedom in Sri Lanka, the FMM alerts the media community of Sri Lanka to be mindful of this unhealthy trend.

Provincial and regional journalists, in particular, perform the vital task of informing people facing innumerable difficulties in areas far away from urban citizens' consciousness. Their work, and indeed, the work and freedom of all media, must be protected and strengthened. It is the duty of the government to look into this situation and take immediate remedial measures.

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