Seven media rights groups yesterday claimed the Sri Lanka Army was intimidating journalists who covered the Weliweriya clashes on 1 August when the military clashed with residents protesting about contaminated water supplies.
A statement by the collective of media rights groups including the Free Media Movement and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, said that a summons signed by Major General N.J.C.Dias and delivered to several media organizations had instructed journalists to be present at a military camp in order to obtain their statements by a military panel which is conducting an internal military investigation.
The collective said that the military has no legal authority to summon civilians to give evidence at a military inquiry. “The recent conduct by the military is further proof of the increasing militarisation of the society,” their statement said.
The groups said that they had reason to believe that the recent move is part of a witchhunt against journalists who were critical of the military conduct and reported the mayhem in Weliweriya. They said such journalists have been at the receiving end of threats issued by defence officials recently.
“We at the Seven Media Organizations, strongly demand that the government put an end to the unsavory methods that it has resorted to- including the recent summoning of media personnel- and initiate an independent investigation into the Weliweriya incident. In order to move ahead from the tragedy that befell in Weliweriya, it is important that the government owns up the killings committed by its security apparatus. A white wash of the incident or a witch-hunt of the critics of the government would not serve the interests of the public,” the statement said.