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Government officials assault two "Daily Mirror" journalists, harass Sirasa TV journalist covering home demolitions

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 19 July 2008 FMM press release:

Government officials attack journalists

19 July 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is extremely displeased to report the assault of two more journalists and the harassment of another by government officials.

The journalists were covering the illegal demolishing of hundreds of homes in Colombo on 18 July under the guise of providing security for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting later the same month.

On the afternoon of 18 July, Urban Development Authority (UDA) officials assaulted journalist Yohan Perera and photographer Pradeep Dilrukshana from the "Daily Mirror" newspaper and harassed TV journalist Dushantha Manoj from Sirasa TV. They were all covering the violent demolishing of the homes. Perera was admitted to Colombo General Hospital after having sustained injuries.

The hundreds of police officers present at the scene were unable to stop the assaults against journalists. There is a mentality influenced by the action of high Government officials and the ruling party that they can, at their whim and fancy, assault journalists with complete impunity.

We see this incident as a sign of absolute intolerance towards any independent coverage of critical issues related to democratic governance. It is the open policy of this government to quell dissent by violence. The impunity and the lack of any meaningful measures to address this violence against journalists place independent and professional voices in the media community in a very precarious position in Sri Lanka.

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