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FMM condemns police actions against journalists covering protests

(FMM/IFEX) - We five media organisations, the Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions (FMETU), Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA) and Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), express our serious concern that the police and unruly mobs who enjoy police protection continue to violate our people's right to protest and the right of journalist to cover those protests. These rights are guaranteed by the constitution and the duty of the police is to protect these rights.

On 11 February 2010, in Dehiatthakandiya, police grabbed the TV cameras of journalists Sugath Wijerathna, of Sirasa TV, and K.H.M. Samathapala, of Swarnavahini TV, and erased the footage they had filmed of a police attack on peaceful protesters. The protest was organised as part of the island-wide campaign for the release of General (Rtd) Sarath Fonseka.

On 14 February, in Tangalla, thugs protected by the police grabbed the cassettes of Ajith Pushpakumara, of the Siyatha Group, and Rahula Hemantha, of Sirasa TV, while they were covering another protest held for the same purpose.

It has been reported to our organisations that journalists covering the protests have also been obstructed by the police on a number of other occasions.

We media organizations condemn these acts of violence against journalists and the media, emphasising that the police behavior in these incidents is a clear violation of our people's right to information.

The continuing trend of attacking journalists covering demonstrations has contributed to the oppression of the media in Sri Lanka over the last few years. We urge all democratic forces to voice their concerns about this dangerous trend of police violations of the people's right to information, which in turn threatens the democratic values of our society.

We urge the Inspector General of Police to take immediate action to stop this illegal behaviour.

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