Attacks on journalists and media institutions continue to remain in the news

Attacks on journalists and media institutions continue to remain in the news

Written by Tharushan Fernando

06 Jan, 2016 | 9:40 pm

With the end of the thirty year old civil war, there was much hope for the development of Sri Lanka in all fields. Yet the media and news industry had to undergo threats that undermined its freedom, on various occasions. Multiple attempts on the lives of journalists, attacks on media institutions are splattered across recent history.

On May 2008,  Keith Noyahr, Associate Editor and defence columnist of The Nation newspaper was abducted and beaten.

Senior Journalist, Lasantha Wickremetunge, who tried to stand up against such acts, defying the basic freedoms of information and expression, was  assassinated in Attidiya on January 8, 2009. Ironically, it was the late senior journalist who, bravely stated, prior to his murder that  “As media institutions, we need to stand up against the acts of terror. This is not the first time and this may not be the last.”

The Criminal Investigations Department requested public assistance to obtain information on the assassination of Lasantha Wickremetunge but the move may be deemed as ‘too late’ as it came only six years after the actual incident

Two weeks after the assassination of Lasantha Wickremetunga,on January 23, 2009, Chief Editor of the Rivira newspaper Upali Tennakoon was assaulted by a group that arrived on two motorcycles, The attack left Upali Tennakoon and his wife injured, and their vehicle damaged.

On March 25, that year, the office of the Udayan newspaper in Jaffna was attacked with a hand grenade. Three months later, on June 1,  2009, Journalist Poddala Jayantha was abducted by a certain group from Embuldeniya, Nugegoda. The group had assaulted Poddala Jayantha and had shaved his hair and beard.

The trend of suppressing the voice of  the media didn’t stop there. On March 22, 2010 an attack was launched on the Head Office of the Sirasa Media Network, leaving several of its employees injured. And four months after the attack on Sirasa, on July 30, 2010, an attack was launched on the Voice of Asia media group which runs Siyatha TV and radio stations. On  April  13, 2013, the Head Office of the Udayan newspaper was attacked once again, making it the 33rd such attack on its office and journalists.

Senior Lecturer at the University of the Visual and Performing Arts, Chandraguptha Thenuwara speaking with in regard to these horrendous acts stated:

These journalists faced murder threats and it still cannot be solved – as to who were behind these attacks. Even though the previous government was constantly influenced to look into these issues, it only caused more problems and added more pressure on journalists.

He added:

At a time when the new government is in celebration of coming into power it must be demanded of them, that those behind these atrocities on journalists, be revealed and immediate measures be taken against them.

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