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Journalist and editor assaulted in Kathankudi over coverage of provincial elections

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

Journalist beaten, editor assaulted and robbed

It has been reported to FMM that a journalist was beaten and an editor was assaulted and robbed of his valuables in the eastern town of Kathankudi, in seemingly election-related incidents. Kathankidi has been a scene of election-related violence as well as widespread electoral malpractice in the recently-held eastern provincial council election.

Freelance journalist J.L. Jawfarkhan was beaten by party supporters on the afternoon of 19 May 2008 at around 1:20 p.m. (local time). He had been asked to secure an interview with provincial councilor M. Hisbullah by a Colombo television station. When he went to see the councilor, the councilor's supporters - shouting that Jawfarkhan had not supported them in the election - began to beat him, even though Hisbullah called for them to stop and pointed out that he was a journalist.

Jawfarkhan has filed a complaint to the Kathankudi police, identifying the persons who beat him.

On 9 May, one day before the election, Mr. M. I. Rahmahetulla (alias Poovi), the editor of the weekend newspaper "Vaara Ureikal", was assaulted by a gang of three and robbed of his digital camera and of the cash he was carrying. The incident occurred at around 10.00 p.m., as Rahmahetulla was on his way home following a day's work at his newspaper office. According to FMM sources, this assault was also election-related, as Rahmahetulla has been blamed for not supporting a powerful politician in the area.

Although Rahmahetulla filed a complaint at the Kathankudi police station on the day of the assault, no action has been taken by the police.

Kathankudi police have been criticised by independent election observers for being partial and not taking meaningful steps to stop large-scale electoral malpractices that took place in the area. FMM is afraid that, with regard to the above-mentioned political motivated assaults, Kathankudi police may not be impartial in carrying out investigations.

FMM condemns both incidents as attacks on media freedom, and demands that the district police intervene to ensure that the culprits are brought before the law without delay.

FMM urges all politicians to respect journalists' right to report and treat them with equal respect, regardless of their political affiliations. FMM also reiterates that journalists' responsibility to act independently of political belief and affiliation becomes all the more important in times of elections. FMM requests that all journalists and media workers be independent and impartial in covering elections.

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