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‘I never thought that journalists would be assaulted’

At least 7 Sinhala journalists were beaten by Sri Lankan security officers during a protest near the president’s residence yesterday, as reports of the assaults broke out on Friday.

"They ganged up and beat me up when I had fallen on the ground," said Sumedha Sanjeewa a freelance video journalist who was subsequently arrested by Sri Lankan authorities. He said officers in uniform and civilian clothing had assaulted him.

Sirasa TV journalist Awanka Kumara meanwhile expressed his surprise at being assaulted.

"I never thought that journalists [would] be assaulted in such a manner, because they know us,” he said. “We have been reporting these events for a long time."

JDS Lanka named the assaulted journalists as:

1. Sumedha Sanjeewa (Derana TV)

2. Nishshanka Werapitiya (Derana TV)

3. Pradeep Wickramasinghe (Derana TV)

4. Awanka Kumara (Sirasa TV)

5. Waruna Wanniarachchi (Lankādeepa)

6. Nisal Baduge (Daily Mirror)

7. Chatura Deshan (Sirasa TV)

See more from JDS here and LankaFiles here.

For years, Sri Lankan authorities have harassed, intimidated and assaulted journalists – mainly Tamils in the North-East.

Earlier this month, Tamil journalist Murugupillai Kokulathasan was released on bail after spending over 470 days in detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Other Tamil journalists have been interrogated in recent months, whilst others report ongoing persecution from the state.

Throughout the years, several have been murdered in the course of their work.

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