06/11/2009, 00.00
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Silent march through the streets of Colombo in defence of freedom of expression

by Melani Manel Perera
The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association leads march against the prevailing climate of intimidation; it accuses paramilitary groups of being responsible for violence against journalists. On 1 June journalist Poddala Jayantha, who works for Sinhalese-language news paper ‘Silumina’, was briefly seized and beaten.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – Politicians, trade union leaders, churchmen, activists and media workers took to the streets of Colombo yesterday in a silence protest in defence of press freedom and against the abduction of journalists and the violence against people working in the media. They were led by the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) in an attempt to end the climate of intimidation that has fallen on the media. Paramilitary forces are accused of the violence that often strikes at media people.

The latest victim of this wave is SLWJA Secretary Poddala Jayantha. A journalist with the Sinhalese newspaper Silumina, Mr Poddala was attacked on 1 June in the middle of the afternoon in front of several witnesses and held briefly by a still unidentified group.

After being dragged to a small truck he was beaten and several bones in his legs were fractured. His attackers shaved his head and beard and left him near Colombo’s IDH Hospital.

In response to the violent incident, which was unanimously condemned, the SLWJA and the Free Media Movement (FMM) announced their decision to hold a silent march on 10 June.

“Freedom of expression is a right”, said Fr Lional Peiris, who took part in the rally with people from the diocese of Kurunegala. Speaking to AsiaNews he said that that “that freedom has been assassinated”; for this reason “we feel that the war is not over.”

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