For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Free Media Movement expresses deep concern over the attack on Sunday Leader journalist, Faraz Shaukataly at his residence off Hotel Road in Mount Lavinia, Colombo, and demands that the authorities conduct immediate investigations to determine who the perpetrators are. Mr Shaukataly was shot at by gunmen who entered his home close to midnight on the 15th of February. He is currently undergoing treatment for his injuries at the National Hospital in Colombo.
This is but the latest in a number of incidents that have long threatened the safety of journalists and media freedom in Sri Lanka. It is well known that not just as journalists but as citizens too they have faced threat, harassment, abduction and violent attack in trying to exercise the democratic rights of freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom to take part in political activity.
This insecure environment for journalists is the direct result of a history of uninvestigated incidents where no one has been brought to justice for committing violence against the media. The inability of the law enforcement agencies in Sri Lanka to charge and penalize such individuals who have engaged in unlawful behavior is a reflection of how far we have strayed from the path of democracy and human rights. When there is no respect for the rule of law, freedom exists not for the citizens but for the perpetrators of crimes against them. In this culture of impunity, journalists and the media are at risk and always faced with danger. It is in such a context that Sunday Leader journalist too Faraz Shaukataly faced a bullet.
It is to prevent the continuing occurrence of undemocratic and illegal acts that the Free Media Movement has repeatedly called on the Government to conduct comprehensive investigations into incidents of violence and bring the perpetrators to justice. Although it is reported that the President has called for an investigation into the shooting of Faraz Shaukataly, the Free Media Movement is not confident about the outcome as many similar investigations have not yielded results in the past. The Free Media Movement therefore calls on the Government once again to seriously address concerns of a violent and unsafe environment for journalists and the media and take meaningful steps to fully investigate this incident.
Sunil Jayasekara Shyamini Boyel