7 January 2008


Journalists face death threats for protesting minister's attack on media outlet

Incident details

Chevaan Daniel, Kingsley Ratnayaka, Susil Kedelpitya, Sanath Balasuriya, Dharmasiri Lankapeli


death threat
(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 6 January 2008 FMM press release:

Journalists face death threats for resisting government MP's thuggery

6 January 2008, Colombo - A number of journalists in Sri Lanka have received credible information that underworld gangs have been ordered to threaten, harass and even kill them for their involvement in protests held in response to the recent outrageous behaviour of government MP Mervyn de Silva.

De Silva, the Minister of Labour, stormed into the state-run television station Sri Lanka Rupavahini Cooperation (SLRC) on 27 December 2007 with a group of thugs, that we now know included murderers and underworld drug dealers, and brutally assaulted the station's news director, Mr. T.M.G. Chandrasekara.

At the time, journalists and staff of the SLRC, together with colleagues from other media organizations, surrounded the offices of the chairman of SLRC to barricade in the minister and his motley gang of thugs until the arrival of the police. The minister then apologized for his behaviour live on camera. Although the FMM regrets that the situation escalated to the point that the minister and one of his thugs were assaulted, we understand the feelings of the journalists who faced such an unprecedented attack.

The FMM is now deeply disturbed to hear that - instead of immediate and stern disciplinary measures being taken against the minister - underworld gangs, in collusion with senior politicians, are planning to intimidate and even murder some journalists involved in this incident.

Three leading media personnel of the MBC TV and Radio network who covered the incident extensively - the head of MTV, Chevaan Daniel; Sirasa director Kingsley Ratnayaka; and Sirasa news director Susil Kedelpitya - have filed complaints with the Maharagama police over death threats they have recently received. Their complaints record the names of underworld persons who allegedly have been given contracts to kill them. Even more shockingly, the FMM has received credible information that Sanath Balasuriya, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Dharmasiri Lankapeli, general secretary of the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU), and a number of other senior journalists, trade union and media activists may also be targeted for assassination in relation to the SLRC incident.

This situation is exacerbated by the fact that the country's president has, to date, not taken any meaningful steps against de Silva's reprehensible behaviour.

We note with great concern that the SLRC incident and its aftermath proves beyond an iota of doubt the president's and his government's complete and utter disregard for the rule of law and democracy. This despicable culture of impunity and state-sponsored terror places journalists who report on the gross abuse of power in the untenable position of having to fear for their lives and those of their loved ones.

We place the security of all those so threatened squarely in the hands of the government and the president. The responsibility is theirs and theirs alone to ensure that all journalists and media personnel facing the threat of physical harm are afforded the fullest protection from underworld criminal elements and that MP Mervyn de Silva is urgently brought to justice for his deranged abuse of power.


Sri Lanka

IFEX members working in this country 1

More from Sri Lanka
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: Sri Lanka

    Officials raised the need to introduce laws to regulate news websites and curb hate speech

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: Sri Lanka

    The government granted access to many news sites that had been blocked under the previous administration, including the diaspora-based outlet TamilNet, which had been obstructed since 2007.

  • Freedom on the Net 2015: Sri Lanka

    Rights violations on a considerable decline

More from Asia & Pacific


  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region