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Librarian of state-owned television station SLRC wounded in razor attack

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

Librarian of SLRC cut with a razor knife

FMM is horrified and shocked that another staff member of the state-controlled Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) - Mrs. Ranjani Aluthge, a librarian - has been wounded in a razor knife attack. On the evening of 5 March 2008, she was on her way home in a public transport bus when a young person wearing a cap slashed her back twice before getting out of the bus. Mrs. Ranjani was admitted to the Colombo general hospital and received a number of stitches. FMM condemns this horrible act in the strongest terms.

This is the fourth incident of attacks or attempted attacks on SLRC journalists and media workers that has taken place recently.

On 25 January, a knife attack on journalist Lal Hemantha Mawalage took place. He was on his way home around 11:00 p.m. when he was attacked by two men on a motorbike who lay in wait for him. He received severe cuts to his right arm, and was admitted to Ward 72 of the Colombo general hospital. Two nights ago Mawalage was asked by some unknown person to get his coffin ready.

On the night of 29 January two persons, one of them armed with a pistol, entered the house of media worker Duleep Dushantha, also of the state-owned SLRC. As he was not in the house at that time they threatened his mother with death if she informed police of the incident.

On 27 February, SLRC's assistant director of news, Priyal Ranjith Perera, was threatened by an unidentified gang while he was in his residence. They tried to attack and stab him but he was able to close the door and shouted for help.

All these journalists were involved in the spontaneous protest that sprung up on 27 December 2007 when labour Minister Mervyn de Silva stormed into the SLRC with a group of thugs and assaulted its news director.

Soon after, three journalists from the privately-owned MTV network who were involved in covering the 27 December incident filed a complaint with the Maharagama police station saying that they had received credible information that underworld persons were plotting to harm them. Two other journalists involved in covering the minister's intrusion into the SLRC were followed by unknown persons recently. None of these incidents has been investigated fully and no culprit has been brought to justice. In this situation, some journalists who played a leading role at the protest have been forced to go into hiding.

These attacks and threats are creating a fear psychosis, especially among the journalists who participated and covered the 27 December SLRC protest against the minister. This in turn will interfere with them freely performing their duty of informing people.

It is very unfortunate that our repeated requests to the government for immediate and open inquires into these incidents have not had any positive response. Instead, what we hear is anti-media rhetoric from government higher-ups. Intolerance of critical reporting is being promoted to a dangerous level, inciting fear among journalists.

In this situation FMM urges all democratic forces, including political parties, to join with journalists' organisations in protesting these attacks and protecting what little media freedom we have in our country today.

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