For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Free Media Movement considers the arrests of Jayampathi Bulathsinhala: printer, and the owner and workers at Sarala Graphics, Nugegoda to be a gross violation of the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as of the right to peaceful protest and of engaging in a lawful profession. FMM condemns the arrests and call for the immediate release of all 9 detainees immediately. FMM also call for all charges against Bulathsinhala’s wife and two brothers to be dropped immediately.
On the night of September 7, 2010, as Parliament prepared to debate the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, the owner and 7 workers, including one woman, of the printing establishment Sarala Graphics, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka, were arrested in connection with the printing of a poster protesting against this Constitutional Amendment.
The printer responsible for having given the print order to the press, Jayampathy Bulathsinhala, surrendered himself to the Police in Mirihana on September 8. This followed the arrest of his wife and her two brothers from their home in Nugegoda, and their subsequent detention. There can be no doubt that Bulathsinhala’s wife and brothers were taken into custody as virtual hostages. This reveals the arbitrary and irrational nature of these actions. These three persons were produced before a Magistrate on the night of September 8 and released on personal bail. They are noticed to appear in Court on September 13.
Bulathsinhala has declared that he was executing the print order for the main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP). MP Mangala Samaraweera, the Media Coordinator of the UNP has informed the Mirihana Police that he handed over the print order to Bulathsinhala, saying that this was a poster meant for public display and contained nothing that was against the existing laws of Sri Lanka. In spite of this, Detention Orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) have been issued for all 9 persons.
The Free Media Movement condemns the repressive measures taken by the government to silence all democratic opposition to the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution on September 8 2010 with no respect for democratic norms or for the freedom of opinion and expression. The Free Media movement also calls on all democratic and peace-loving citizens of Sri Lanka to raise their voices against these attacks on democracy and rights in Sri Lanka.