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FMM denounces attacks on protesters as violation of free expression

(FMM/IFEX) - 10 February 2010 - We, major media organizations in Sri Lanka, state that tear gas attacks and the dispersing of peaceful protest campaigns in a number of cities on 10 February 2010 by the police is a blatant violation of the basic right to freedom of expression of our people. We are afraid that this incident reaffirms the fact that in Sri Lanka today, space for opposition political activities, which are an essential component of a pluralistic democratic society, is being seriously restricted.

These campaigns were organized by opposition political parties to protest the arrest of defeated presidential candidate General (Rtd.) Sarath Fonseka by military police two days ago.

Police, instead of doing their duty of protecting the people's constitutional right to protest, provided protection to a politically sponsored mob armed with iron bars and various other things. The mob arrived at the protest venue to attack the protesters. We as major media organizations in Sri Lanka would like to caution that this show of political partisanship by police could lead to a dangerous deterioration of democratic institutions in the country.

Further, if police failed to protect people's basic rights at a time when parliament is dissolved and nomination dates are decided, people's trust in the democratic system may be further eroded.

We reiterate that the broadest possible intervention is the need to protect all freedom of our people, including media freedom.

Free Media Movement (FMM)
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)
Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions (FMETU)
Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA)
Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF)

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