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Three journalists assaulted by Colombo University medical students

(FMM/IFEX) - FMM notes that students of the Colombo University Medical Faculty harassed and assaulted three journalists on 28 August 2008 and took away three of their cameras.

This incident occurred when journalist Yamuna Harshani and photojournalist Janaka Galappaththi of "Lankadeepa" daily newspaper were asking students for their opinions concerning the on-going boycott of examination paper-marking by the teachers' unions.

Without any provocation or exchange of words, the journalists were assaulted by some of the students. Television journalist Dushantha Manoj, who rushed to the scene after the two journalists called him by telephone, was also assaulted when he arrived on the scene to cover the incident.

The journalists told FMM that they could identify, if called upon to do so, the medical students who assaulted them. All three journalists filed complaints at the Cinnamon Garden Police Station soon after the incident.

The FMM condemns this assault. It is very unfortunate that students resorted to violence, without any provocation, against journalists who were simply doing their duty in reporting an important social issue. At the same time, we note that this assault took place in front of two police officers, who had done nothing to stop the students.

The police later recovered the three cameras taken by medical students.

The FMM demands that the police make public the measures they have taken against the persons who had snatched the cameras.

We note that this growing culture of unbridled and open violence against journalists is in the context of, and to a large degree even animated by, the actions of Minister Mervyn Silva - in FMM's opinion, a notorious thug in the government, reviled for his attacks against media personnel - and the lack of action by the government and police to meaningfully discipline him.

Violence against media by those in high public office, as well as aiding and abetting those who commit such acts of violence, results in a culture of impunity that sadly gives rise to incidents of this nature, where student protests suddenly turn into lynch mobs.

The police, by bringing those responsible for this assault to justice, can restore confidence in the rule of law and disabuse the misguided notions of students that violence has no consequences. The failure to do so fuels, at all levels of political life and society in Sri Lanka, a growing intolerance of independent media and violence against them.

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