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Previously threatened journalist stalked

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 22 July 2008 FMM press release:

Unknown gangs stalk the head of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI)

22 July 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka's five largest media organizations, including the Free Media Movement (FMM), are deeply disturbed to note that suspicious, unidentified groups of individuals have repeatedly followed Mr. Ranga Kalansuriya, the Director General of the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI).

SLPI is a very well-known and highly respected media institution in Sri Lanka, collectively run by the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, the Newspaper Owners Society, the FMM and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association. SLPI runs the Sri Lanka College of Journalism (SLCJ) and manages the Press Council of Sri Lanka.

It has been reported to the FMM that two unknown groups have been loitering around Kalansuriya 's residence over the past couple of days. One of these groups was there as early as 5:45 in the morning. The group wanted to know the whereabouts of Kalansuriya on the pretext that there was a parcel to hand over to him. The previous week, an anonymous caller, noting that he had ventured into the SLPI office, threatened to kill all the staff. A complaint was made to the police regarding this incident.

The FMM notes that this intimidation occurs in the context of a regime and an Army Commander that directly and indirectly justify attacks on journalists, as was done with the vicious attacks on Keith Noyahr, Iqbal Athas and Namal Perera. It is worth recalling that Noyahr was in charge of the English section at the SLCJ and Perera was the acting head of SLPI's advocacy section.

In a recent interview with a Sinhala-language weekly, the Army Commander said that these attacks against journalists were the consequence of their "misdeeds". This same mentality was evident in press reports in government-controlled Sinhala media that accused SLPI of supporting terrorists. It is damningly clear that the regime, and high-ranking officials of the police as well as the military, are aiding and abetting those who engage in violence against journalists.

The FMM strongly suspects, but does not know for certain, the identity of those behind the threats made against Kalansuriya. The FMM emphasizes that it is the government's responsibility to investigate these threats, if it is serious about media freedom. The appointment of pliant investigative committees, hastily convened press briefings after a journalist is killed or attacked, and hypocritical public statements that "all is well" with freedom of expression in Sri Lanka are utterly useless as means by which Sri Lanka's rotting democracy might be strengthened and media freedom restored.

If the government fails to take appropriate action in the face of violations of press freedom, it will be egregiously culpable supporting dastardly acts of violence against journalists in Sri Lanka.

For more alerts and reports on media freedom in Sri Lanka, visit our blog:

Updates the Kalansuriya case:

For further information on the Noyahr case, see:

For further information on the Athas case, see:

For further information on the Perera case, see:

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