Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are "appalled by the way a Sri Lankan police inspector reputedly close to the president was allowed to manhandle and threaten a newspaper outside a courthouse" they said in a press release.
On July 10, Inspector Neomal Rangajeewa grabbed and threatened Ceylon Today journalist, Akila Jayawardane, outside Colombo High Court for reportedly taking a photograph of the inspector.
Rangajeewa questioned why Jayawardane was taking photographs, despite the journalist repeatedly showing his press card to the inspector. The Sunday Observer reported that Rangajeewa then dragged Jayawardane to a police post and had taken two memory chips from his camera.
"Rangajeewa's violent behaviour has stunned many of Sri Lanka's journalists, who regard him as being close to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and therefore fear that he shares in some of the impunity that the president enjoys," the RSF stated. "When secretary of defence from 2005 to 2015, Rajapaksa became known as the 'Terminator' and as the head of the 'white van commando' -so called because of the white vans reportedly used to abduct and murder at least 14 journalists during that ten-year period."
"Inspector Neomal Rangajeewa's behaviour towards the photojournalist Akila Jayawardane is completely unacceptable," Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk said. "It speaks to the extraordinary contempt for the media among certain members of the security forces close to President Rajapaksa's circle, who are a symbol of the 'dark decade' in which so many journalists were murdered. We call on the government to punish all violence by officials against Sri Lanka's journalists," he added.
Sri Lanka is ranked 127th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.