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Four journalists sent on compulsory leave by state-owned TV network

(FMM/IFEX) - Four journalists with the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), the state-owned national television network, were sent on compulsory leave with immediate effect on 26 September 2007. Among those affected is the president of the Producers' Union, the trade union of the SLRC. The journalists have been singled out for urging in a letter to management that all action taken by the authorities which impinges on the professional integrity of employees be stopped forthwith.

The union leaders have been accused of distributing a leaflet containing the points made in their letter to management. According to the information made available to the FMM, distribution of the leaflet had taken place outside the SLRC and during non-working hours.

To order compulsory leave for union activists in response to an official communiqué is a violation of their fundamental rights, namely their right to free expression. The FMM wishes to unequivocally condemn this action and would like to express solidarity with the trade union and the producers and journalists concerned.

The four who have been sent on compulsory leave are: union president Kanchana Marasinghe, executive committee member Herbert Kumara Alagiyawanna, and producers Athula Peiris and Ravi Abeywickrema. There were 72 signatories to the letter sent to the SLRC's chairman.

The FMM strongly urges the authorities to rescind the compulsory leave imposed on the four journalists. Since victimising those who put forward ideas to improve their institution will not resolve the issues, the FMM urges the authorities to find other ways to solve this issue amicably.

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