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Villagers assault TV crew after alleged incitement by police officer; opposition leader admonishes reporter for not publishing statement

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an 8 November 2007 FMM press release:

Two cases of violation of media freedom

The Free Media Movement is disturbed by two incidents in which media freedom was threatened on 8 November 2007.

At the Tissamaharamaya base hospital, a group of villagers assaulted a two-member team from Sirasa TV covering the post-mortem of two villagers killed on the night of 7 November. The villagers assaulted journalist Wasantha Pradeep Masinghe and cameraperson Waruna. Their camera was also damaged. The journalists told FMM that a senior police officer incited the villages to assault them. They have made a complaint to the Tissamaharama police station about the officer's role in the incident.

FMM condemns the assault as a violation of people's right to information and journalists' right to report. It is the duty of the police to protect people's rights, including those of journalists. In this case, the police have failed miserably to protect the Sirasa TV team.

In an another incident, FMM learned that UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has criticised "Daily Mirror" correspondent Kelum Bandara for not publishing the UNP's statement on the government's budget.

The UNP leader reportedly said that the "'Daily Mirror' is worse than 'Daily News'", implying that the paper is being partial to the government. He added that he would issue a letter to protest the matter.

FMM wishes to remind all political leaders that newspapers are not under any obligation to carry party statements and expresses concern over the manner in which the main opposition party tries to intimidate the media.

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