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Sri Lankan police injure 9 journalists amidst protests

At least nine journalists have been injured by Sri Lankan police during protests against the Rajapaksa regime amidst international calls for the government to respect the democratic rights of its citizens.

US Ambassador, Julie Chung stated on Twitter:

The European Union similarly stated:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have pleaded with the government to not obstruct the media from fulfilling its job as it is necessary to end the crisis in the best manner possible. 

One of the nine protestors, Sumedha Sanjeewa Gallage, a freelance journalist, was violently attacked by police during the Mirihana Protest on 31 March outside of the president’s residence. He was taken to the Mirihana police station with severe injuries and was denied access to immediate medical attention. He has since lost partial vision in his right eye due to the attack. 

The remaining eight journalists, Lahiru Chamara, Nissanka Weapitiya, Pradeep Wickramasinghe, Nisal Baduge, Warana Wanniarachchi, Awanka Kumara, Chatura Deshan, Sulochana Gamage, Tharnidu Jayawardana, and Thisara Anuruddha Bandara all also report violent injuries often initiated by the police.

“Consultation is the best way out of this type of crisis and, to that end, all actors must be able to benefit from the reliable, verified, and updated reporting that it is journalists’ job to provide,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“This is why we are calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to allow reporters to freely cover these historic protests". 

In a recent statement issued, the UN High Commission for Human Rights expressed concern about recent measures taken by the Sri Lankan authorities, including a 36-hour curfew backed by the island-wide state of emergency and a social media ban.

“We are concerned that such measures are aimed at preventing or discouraging people from legitimately expressing their grievances through peaceful protests”.  

Sri Lanka has a long history of stifling press freedom and launching violent attacks on journalists. Tamil journalists have been disproportionately subject to assassinations, enforced disappearances, abductions, assaults, threats, harassment, and intimidations exacerbated by disproportionate prosecution by the Rajapaksa state regime under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Since 2015, RSF has highlighted an increase in police attacks on journalists covering issues on the Tamil minority. 

As of 2021, Sri Lanka is ranked 127 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index, while Freedom House declares Sri Lanka as “partly free”. 


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