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Journalist beaten by Eravur police

(FMM/IFEX) - FMM is outraged that Eravur police officers beat journalist Mohamed Hussein with batons because he was covering the suddenly imposed dawn to dusk curfew in Batticaloa on 29 November 2008. The assault and harassment of Hussein is not only a violation of freedom of expression rights but also a violation of basic human rights. Hussein is associated with the Kalmunei media house, run by Inter News.

According to FMM sources, on the morning of 29 November, Hussein took a bus from Eravur to go to his work at the Kalmunai media house. At the Chathurukondan police checkpoint, the bus was stopped and all of the passengers were informed that a curfew from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. was in force. No prior information had been given to the public about the imposition of a curfew. The bus returned to Eravur and Hussein went to his home nearby to change and get his camera and notebook. He then headed back to Eravur on his bicycle, hoping to report on the inconvenience to the public caused by the curfew. Many people were caught unaware because the police had not announced the curfew.

Hussein had nearly reached Eravur when a police vehicle intercepted him and forced him to stop. Two police officers got out of the vehicle armed with rifles and batons. One of the police officers assaulted Hussein with his baton. When Hussein showed them his Inter News identification papers, identifying him as a journalist, the officers did not stop verbally abusing him with foul language. Around 8:00 a.m. (local time), Hussein's friend, Mohamed Ismail Farook, a correspondent with the "Thinakaran" daily, informed the Eravur officer in charge (OIC) of the incident.

Hussein lodged a formal complaint about the assault at the Eravur police station.

The OIC accepted the complaint and told Hussein to meet him in the evening. The officer, however, was not at the station at the specified time as the police were conducting sweeps in Batticaloa, with large numbers of people being brought in for questioning.

The FMM demands that an inquiry be held immediately into this assault. We call on the authorities to take the necessary disciplinary actions against the officers who beat Hussein. Finally, the FMM requests that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) inform his officers to respect the right of journalists to report on emergency situations so that they can perform their duties without fear and intimidation.

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