For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Free Media Movement (FMM) vehemently condemns the arrest of Sirasa TV reporter Indika Shri Aravinda, the seizing of his camera and the destruction of the film footage by the Moratuwa Police on October 4, 2011 and request the Inspector General of Police to carry out a prompt and impartial inquiry into the incident.
According to reports received by the FMM, Aravinda had been detained by the police, while he was gathering information for a news report on the death of a person under police custody. The person had been a suspect in the killing of a police constable attached to the Modera police Station. Aravinda had been arrested and taken to the Moratuwa police station, while he was at the victim’s residence, interviewing on tape the reactions of the mourning family.
The police, who had arrived at the scene, had arrested Aravinda, taken him to the police station and deleted the images from his video camera despite his vehement protest. They had also detained and questioned him for over an hour and released him after getting a statement.
The FMM is disturbed by the high handed and extreme action of the police and their attempt to obstruct media personnel from carrying out their duties. It must be noted that Aravinda who works for a well established media institute, was not obstructing the law or doing anything illegal when he was arrested. It is a media person’s obligation to look into all aspects of a story that he is reporting on. In this context, the arbitrary behaviour of the police has not only impinged on the rights of the journalist, but also prevented him from doing his job effectively and denied the people the access to proper, verified and unbiased information.
In a democracy, the death of suspects while in police custody is a matter of serious concern and is of significant news value to the public. This is more so in a situation where there has been an increase in the occurrence of such deaths. Incidents such as the arrest of Aravinda only serve to give the impression that the deaths were not accidents, but premeditated and that the police are abusing their powers to ensure the public are kept ignorant of the reality.
The FMM calls upon the Inspector General of Police to create an environment where journalists can carry out their work without being subjected to harassment and intimidation, and also urges him to show his commitment to creating such an environment by conducting a thorough, impartial and speedy investigation into the incident.
Convenor Free Media Movement
Tele: 0094777 – 751092