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Journalist threatened by political party supporter; FMM fears increasing media repression in Eastern Province

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

TMVP threatens a female journalist

19 August 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka - It has been reported to the FMM that a supporter of the Karuna faction of the political party Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) conveyed a death threat to journalist Ms. Thakshila Jayasena, of the Sandeshaya - BBC Sinhala Service, after the latter covered a protest rally by the United National Party, Sri Lanka's main opposition party.

According to Jayasena, the incident occurred on 15 August 2008 as she was returning to her office from the protest rally. A motorcyclist followed the three-wheel taxi in which she was travelling and blocked her way. He stopped the taxi and asked the journalist if she recognised him. Jayasena told him that she had seen him at the press conference held by Mangalam Master, the TMVP candidate for the Polonnaruwa Provincial Council election. At that point, the motorcyclist, apparently a TMVP supporter, told her that he had come "not to leave anyone alive" and that he had arranged for a whole group "to do the job."

Jayasena has filed a complaint about this threat at the Polonnaruwa police station.

The FMM views this threat, apparently coming from an armed group engaged in the Provincial Council election, as an omen of increasing media repression in the Eastern Province. If such threats are not addressed immediately, the FMM is deeply concerned the TMVP will treat media in its region of influence in much the same manner as the government does media in the South - which is to say that they will violently clamp down on all dissent and independent reporting. A number of threats by TMVP members against journalists have been brought to the notice of the FMM in recent months.

The FMM demands an apology from the TMVP over this regrettable incident, and asks them to respect freedom of expression and media freedom in the areas under their control, if they wish to convince us of their newfound democratic leaning. FMM also urges the Polonnaruwa police to initiate a quick and transparent inquiry into this incident to ensure that all journalists will be able to report on the upcoming Provincial Council Elections without fear of intimidation.

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