The Sri Lanka Journalists’ Trade Union (SLJTU) questioned the validity of the media accreditation issued by the Government Information Department given the continuous attacks on media personnel while on duty.
President of the SLJTU, Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, said that accreditation card is issued by the Government Information Department and states that the Department of Government Information requests all to provide co-operation to the journalist to carry out his/her duties without let or hindrance. The card is signed by Director General of Government Information Prof. Ariyarathne Athugala.
Abeywickrema questioned the validity of the card since on three occasions last week journalists were attacked while they were engaged in their professional duties and carrying the media accreditation card with them issued by the government.
The SLJTU announced that it would carry out a week long campaign of protesting against the attacks on media personnel by wearing black wrist bands.
“We call on all brothers and sisters in the media to voice their opposition to the continuous attacks faced by the media preventing them from engaging in the profession of their choice – a right guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. We request all media personnel to wear a black wrist band this week as a display of solidarity with their colleagues who have been attacked in the curse of their duties and to demand for the right to work without let or hindrance,” Abeywickrema said.
Attacks on media personnel have been a continuous occurrence and last week saw media personnel being attacked by politicians and officials from state institutions on three different occasions.
The provincial correspondent for ITN in Matale was attacked in Naula last Sunday when he was covering an election related story. He was admitted to hospital and later discharged following pressure from the politicians involved in the attack.
A provincial correspondent in Dambulla was attacked on Wednesday. Thilak Wijesuriya, a correspondent in Dambulla was covering a protest and the handing over of a petition by the residents evicted from the Dambulla sacred area when he was subjected to an attack. The Assistant Divisional Secretary reprimanded Wijesuriya for covering the story and on her instructions, an employee at the Secretariat assaulted the correspondent and deleted the photographs in his camera. Wijesuriya lodged a complaint about the attack with the Dambulla Police.
Then on Thursday, we saw the brutal attack on journalists covering the protest in Weliweriya, Gampaha. Military and police personnel carried out an attack on these media personnel when they identified themselves as members of the media and displayed their government media accreditation cards. The journalists were assaulted and their camera equipment were destroyed. The injured journalists are still receiving medical treatment. (Colombo Gazette)