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Sri Lanka Press Institute visited by armed military inquiring about directors, staff

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 30 May 2008 FMM press release:

The Free Media Movement expresses its grave concern that military personnel have made an "unofficial" visit to the Sri Lanka Press Institute, in which FMM is a constituent partner. Below is the full statement:

The Sri Lanka Press Institute expresses its concern and serious reservation that armed persons dressed in the uniforms of the Sri Lanka Army arrived at the headquarters of the Institute last Tuesday (27 May), and subsequently made inquiries pertaining to the individuals working for the Institute, including its directorate.

The armed men were not permitted to enter the premises by the Institute's security guards. Thereupon, a lone corporal, unarmed, proceeded to the Administration section of the office and began asking for the names of the individuals working for the Institute, including those in its directorate.

When asked to show his identification, he stated that he was from the Army's Intelligence unit, and refused to produce any ID. The corporal was informed by members of the staff present that a formal request for any such information would have to be made by an official authorised to make such a request on behalf of the Sri Lanka Army. The corporal withdrew thereafter.

The matter was promptly brought to the notice of the Military Spokesman of the Ministry of Defence, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara, and the incident became of greater concern when the Institute was informed that the Sri Lanka Army had not authorised any member of its Force to make any such inquiries, and that, in any event, the Intelligence unit would not seek information in such a manner. We were advised to file a complaint at the nearest police station, which was done.

If this was an unauthorised visit by members of the Sri Lanka Army, or any persons not authorised to wear the uniform of the Sri Lanka Army, we would have expected the Military Police to initiate an immediate inquiry into this matter.

That, however, is a matter for the Sri Lanka Army. The Institute is concerned that the timing of this "visit" comes in the immediate aftermath of the abduction, assault and consequent hospitalisation of the Associate Editor of "The Nation", Keith Noyarh, last week.

The Institute has reason to believe that there is a connection between the aforementioned incidents, and thereby expresses its concern, and its dismay, at the developments.

The Sri Lanka Press Institute is the umbrella organisation of the Sri Lanka College of Journalism and the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka and is managed by its four constituent partners: the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka, The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, and has the support of the Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance, the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, the Federation of Media Employees Federation, and the South Asia Free Media Association (Sri Lanka Chapter).

For further information on the Noyahr case, see:

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