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FMM appalled at police spokesperson's justification of minister's attack on journalists

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an 8 August 2008 FMM press release:

Police media spokesperson speaks against media freedom

8 August 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka - FMM is appalled by a statement made by Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ranjith Gunesekara at a press conference on 7 August 2008, regarding government Minister Mervyn Silva's continued attacks against media in Sri Lanka.

Gunesekara said that Silva had a legitimate right to stop anyone from filming him and that it was illegal to film a politician when journalists were not welcome to do so. Further, he stated that Sirasa TV should not have sent a crew to cover the opening of a flyover bridge on 4 August, when the station knew full well of the Minister's hostility towards Sirasa TV.

These are incredible statements. Gunesekara's meek submissiveness to Silva's outrageously violent act is an insult to the police and the rule of law. FMM unequivocally condemns these statements as a clear attempt to restrict media freedom in Sri Lanka.

FMM challenges Gunesekara to explain by which law he proposes to prevent journalists from covering public events and those taking part in them, including politicians. All citizens are free to record public events as they see fit. All journalists are free to report from, be present at, and record public events, especially those which they have been expressly invited to cover, as was the case with the opening of the flyover bridge in Kelaniya, when Silva violently attacked the Sirasa TV crew.

We strongly urge the police to take immediate steps to educate Gunesekara on the basic rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution that guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

We call upon all media and journalists to disregard Gunesekara's misplaced remarks. We recognize that independent media in Sri Lanka will not and should not bow to the violent fiat of goons in the guise of ministers, nor accept statements by lackeys parading as police officers.

For more alerts and reports on media freedom in Sri Lanka, visit FMM's blog: http://freemediasrilanka.wordpress.com

Updates the Sirasa TV crew case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95928

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