Media rights groups have expressed outrage over reports that some journalists were attacked while carrying out their duties in Weliweriya during the protest for clean water.
The Free Media Movement (FMM) and the Sri Lanka Journalists’ Trade Union (SLJTU), in separate statements condemned the attack on the journalists.
SLJTU said that journalists and camera crew who were covering the protest were prevented from covering the clash between the villagers and the security forces by masked military personnel.
Photojournalist of the Ada newspaper Chanuka Kulasekera was assaulted and his camera equipment was damaged when he was attacked by the military personnel. Kulasekera was admitted to the Gampaha hospital for treatment.
Lankadeepa journalist Deepa Adhikari who was also covering the protest in Weliweriya was injured when military men had attacked the media.
She was assaulted by a soldier with a pole when she was on a roof trying to escape the onslaught. Despite her injuries, Adhikari was unable to receive any medical attention until around 9.30 p.m. She had to stay from 6 p.m. till around 9.30 p.m. to escape from the military attack.
The camera of the Rivira provincial correspondent was also taken by the military and the photographs were deleted.
SLJTU said that the journalists who were attacked claim that they were subjected to such harassment even when they have identified themselves as media personnel covering the event. The military personnel have at the time referred to the media personnel as “dogs in the media.”
“Journalists like any other professionals in the country have the right to engage in their profession – a right that has been constitutionally guaranteed to every Sri Lankan. It is discomforting to note the continuous increase in the attacks on the media and the attempt to suppress the freedom of expression,” SLJTU said.
SLJTU urged the defence establishment to take the necessary action against the security forces personnel who have acted in violation of the military discipline by attacking the media.