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Journalists attacked by police while reporting on student demonstration

(FMM/IFEX) - 15 October 2010 - A 14 October 2010 police attack on a university students' demonstration and on journalists who were at the scene to report on the protest is an anti-democratic act. The Free Media Movement (FMM) denounces the attack on the university students and the journalists as a dastardly act.

University students held a demonstration at the Ministry of Education. They were demanding the immediate release of six fellow students being held in custody. The students entered the Ministry premises declaring that they would stay on the property until the release of their fellow students. Police used water cannons to disperse the students and then chased after them and assaulted them. Several students were taken into custody.

The police brutally assaulted a group of students who had gone to Viharamahadevi Park to avoid the attack. The journalists who were at the park to report on the police's actions were directly caught up in the attack.

Journalist Bingun Menaka Gamage of "Lankadeepa", Sandaruwan Yatikinda of Neth FM, "Daily Mirror" photographer Pradeep Dilrukshana, and "Rivira" photographer Chamila Karunaratne came directly under attack. Despite identifying themselves as journalists by producing their media identity cards, police officers attacked the journalists with their belts and kicked them. Another television journalist managed to flee. The following day, the journalists who were attacked lodged four separate complaints at the Cinnamon grand police station.

It is a democratic right to hold demonstrations demanding rights and journalists have a democratic right to report on such protests. Not only violating their rights but also brutally attacking them is a heinous crime. This is a grave attack on media freedom. FMM strongly urges the Minister of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other officials to take legal action against the police officers responsible for the attack. The organisation also urges the masses who upheld democratic norms to rally against continuous anti-democratic incidents of this nature, which are a violation of human rights.

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