Attacks on Media

Threatening journalists in the police station needs to end: FMM

04 Oct, 2016

The Free Media Movement request the Inspector General of Police to take action to end the practice of threatening journalists within police stations by complainers or petitioners. A journalist of the Hiru TV in Mahiyanganaya, Ranjith Karunaweera, faced threats from petitioners inside the Hasalaka Police station when he arrived there to give a statement over a petition forwarded to the Police on a news he recently reported. The Free media Movement wish to express their displeasure over the actions of the Police officers at the Hasalaka Police station for not taking any appropriate action against this violent behaviour of this group of sand miners and for acting in favour of them.

With this The Free Media Movement (FMM)request the Inspector General of Police to order an unbiased investigation over the incident and strongly request to take necessary action to ensure personal safety of the journalist.

The FMM regrets to inform that instead of inquiring from the relevant media institute the Police supported to create a threatening environment for the journalist. Reporting an inaccurate news cannot be categorized as a crime. Hence, the FMM question what is the role police can play at such an instance? Can they take action against an inaccurate news that was published or broadcast?

The news that was telecast over the Hiru news had revealed the illegal sand mining in Mahaweli river near the Weraganthota bridge in Mahiyanganaya, threatening the environment and the stability of the bridge. The news footage clearly showed the use of backhoes and tractors to dig out the sand despite the fact that the law clearly prohibits the use of heavy machinery for sand mining. The footage included comments from two local persons of the affected area.

Following the news telecast, a local collective of sand miners have forwarded a petition to the Hasalaka Police alleging the news to be at fault. Based on the petition, journalist Karunaweera was informed by a Sub Inspector of the Police station to be present at the Police station to give a statement over the dispute. Karunaweera arrived at the Hasalaka Police station on September 27 accompanied by a few other fellow journalists. Only Karunaweera had been taken inside by the Police along with a petitioning group which was comprised of over 20 sand miners. When taken in, the group of men have started charging the journalist with abusive words and death threats. The sub Inspector or any other Police officer present at the location, had not taken any action to stop the violence. Other journalists who accompanied Karunaweera but were not allowed to entre, forced their way in to the police station and had taken Karunaweera to safety.

Following the incident, journalist Karunaweera made a complaint at the Mahiyanganaya Police Station against the Hasalaka Police for acting biased and on the death threats charged by the group of sand miners. The local persons who commented in Karunaweera’s news footage faced threats and damages to their property. A brick work place owned by one of them had been burned during the night of the incident. According to reports from the locality, the other person has fled the village.

This clearly indicate the biased action of the Police officers of the area under the influence of the powerful businessmen in the sand mining industry. This incident showcase that the police need to be more aware of the appropriate action that they are supposed to take in cases where media is concerned.

FMM reiterates the need of an immediate fair inquiry in to the biased actions of the Police officers and strongly request from the Inspector General of the Police to take necessary action with a special consideration on personal safety of the journalist and the two local persons who were the sources of the journalist to reveal the illegal act.

Written By

Free Media Movement Free Media Movement

Free Media Movement c/o SLPI, No 96, Kirula Road Colombo 05, Sri Lanka Telephone: +94 777 394 959 Fax: +94 11 257 3279