Media watchdog says JVP inciting violence against journalists

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 12 April 2005, 16:20 GMT]
Sri Lanka’s main press watchdog, Free Media Movement FMM, Tuesday expressed grave concern that a speech by Mr. Wimal Weerawansa, the powerful propaganda secretary of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), could incite violence against journalists and media institutions. In a letter addressed to the Patriotic National Movement, a JVP affiliate which organized the meeting where Mr. Weerawansa spoke, FMM said “stop this hate campaign your organisation has launched against journalists and media institutions and to keep criticisms within the limits of democratic freedoms."

Mr. Wimal Weerawansa attacked NGOs and several journalists in a two hour long speech at a meeting organized by the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) on April 6.

FMM also condemned the PNM for forcing Young Asia Television journalists leave the meeting where Mr. Weerawansa spoke.

The following is the full text of the FMM release:

“Free Media Movement (FMM) expresses its grave concern regarding the speech made by Mr. Wimal Weerawansa at Patriotic National Movement (PNM) public meeting held in Maharagama on 06th April 2005. Mr. Weerawansa’s speech which was full of hate speech against certain journalists and media institutions was tantamount to inciting violence. This is clear violation of freedom of expression. The warnings made by Mr. Weerawansa in his speech against journalists becomes very seriously dangerous given his position as a parliamentary leader of JVP and a co chair of PNM.

Some of these allegations against journalists and media institutions are as follows:

"(name of a news paper) was rescued by tsunami funds received by Berghof foundation. (name of an editor) is running his paper form those funds and not because it sales."

"(name of a journalist) is the one who runs Tiger terrorists’ Tamil Net web site"

“Editor of the (name of news paper) belongs to the category of bribe takers. He threatens people saying that they will be exposed and extorts money."

“This man publishes photographs to say that Karuna Aamman group (break away LTTE group- FMM) is having military camps in government controlled area and employ child soldiers, when Tamil Selvam is in Europe”.

“There is another person called (name of a journalist) and he is maintained by Berghof Foundation”.

“There is an another one, a real Wicramasinhaite (leader of the opposition - FMM), a real fool, there are no words in the Sinhala language to describe him”.

"There is a another (first name of a journalist), you know who he is.."

“We should expose these ones by name and create a situation that they won't be able to walk on the streets......should spit on their face...”

Any person has right to criticise journalists and media institutions. But nobody has the right to use hate language against them and threaten them that they will not be allowed to walk in the streets. This is clearly inciting violence against journalists named in his speech.

At the same time FMM condemns eviction by force of Young Asia Television journalists from your said meeting. This was a public meeting and any journalist has the right to report it. Banning journalists covering public meetings is clear violation of people’s right to know.

FMM urges PNM to stop this hate campaign your organisation has launched against journalists and media institutions and to keep criticisms within the limits of democratic freedoms so that verbal criticisms will not lead to more violence in our society.


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