Sri Lanka: at least 7 media workers, social media activist beaten, arrestedEvent
- Sri Lanka
- Initial Date
- Mar 31, 2022
- Event Description
Several journalists were assaulted and at least six were taken into custody by police personnel from Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force (STF) on March 31, while covering a protest in Mirihana, within the Nugegoda suburb of Colombo. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Sri Lankan affiliates, the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU) , Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association (SLWJA) and the Free Media Movement (FMM), strongly condemn the journalists’ assaults and detainments and urge Sri Lanka’s government to allow journalists report independently and without fear.
On March 31, officers from the STF reportedly assaulted several journalists and detained at least six during a mass public protest outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s residence in Mirihana.
According to the FMETU, Avanka Kumara and Chatura Deshan, from Sirasa TV, Sumedha Sanjeewa Gallage, Pradeep Wickramasinghe, and Nissanka Werapitiya, journalists from Derana TV, and Waruna Wanniarachchi, a reporter for Lankadeepa newspapers, were amongst those arrested and assaulted while reporting on the protests.
Members of the president’s media division also threatened journalists to cease reporting, including senior journalist Tharindu Jayawardena. The FMETU further reported that staff and journalists were harassed and arrested despite providing authorities with identity documents. The SLWJA reported that camera and other equipments of few journalists and media workers were also severely damaged.
According to Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), Thisara Anurudda Bandara, a 28-year-old social media activist, was also detained and is being held at the Mutwal police station in Colombo.
Gallage, one of the assaulted journalists, reported that he was denied access to the hospital for treatment despite repeated requests. Detained journalist Awanka Kumara said that police attacked him despite knowing he was a reporter. According to JDS, some of the arrested journalists are to be released on bail following an intervention of more than 300 lawyers.
The Mirihana protestors accused President Rajapaksa of mismanaging the Sri Lankan economy and causing economic crisis with severe inflation, daily blackouts, a shortage of fuel and essential items.
On April 1, the Rajapaksa government declared a state of emergency, imposing a nationwide curfew following the protests. At least 600 protesters, including civil society members, journalists and rights activists have been arrested to date. The Sri Lankan Telecommunications Regulatory Commission also proceeded to ban all social media, including Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, IMO, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat, and TikTok on April 2. The ban was lifted after 15 hours.
During the state of emergency, the Sri Lankan government was granted the authority to detain anyone, seize personal property, search any premises, and amend and suspend any laws, in the name of maintaining public security.
On April 1, the FMM submitted a letter to the Inspector General of Police demanding the authorities respect and maintain international human rights standards during the ongoing state of emergency. The FMM have named Gotabaya Rajapaska’s presidential term a “dark period” in Sri Lankan history, with increased suppression of free speech and press freedom.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- (Arbitrary) Arrest and Detention
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of expression
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to political participation
- Freedom of expression
- Blogger/ Social Media Activist
- Media Worker
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 31 March 2022, at least six media workers and a social media activist were beaten and temporarily arrested by the police, while covering ongoing protest against the Government in Colombo, Sri Lanka.