As Sri Lanka’s media comes under increasing partisan pressure, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calls on all sides contesting the January 26 general elections to respect the role of journalists in covering the campaign and voting process.
The New York based CPJ notes with concern yesterday’s assault on the BBC Sinhala service reporter who, according to Sri Lankan media reports, was hospitalized after a political mob, apparently linked to supporters of an agriculture minster, attacked her as she was covering the event.
Thakshila Dilrukshi was pursued and attacked with clubs. Her recording equipment and mobile phone were taken as well, according to the German News Agency DPA. CPJ is trying to confirm the extent of her injuries.
The media support and press freedom group Media Freedom in Sri Lanka told CPJ that election-monitoring networks have recorded hundreds of incidents of recent campaign-related violence.
“We condemn the attack on Thakshila Dilrukshi and call on the government and the organizers of political rallies to ensure the safety of journalists,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “As the country emerges from its battle with Tamil secessionists, it is important that all parties work to create an environment that will allow journalists to cover the elections without threat.”
CPJ reported extensively on attacks on journalists in its special report Sri Lanka: Failure to Investigate and recently ranked Sri Lanka as the fourth-worst country in the world for impunity in attacks on journalists. Twelve journalists have been killed and scores of others attacked since the Rajapaksa government came to power, with no convictions in any of the cases. A two-part blog entry on the violence against journalists is running on CPJ.org.