ECONOMYNEXT – The Director-General Information of the government Nalaka Kaluwewa has lodged a complaint to the Chief of Police against an officer who allegedly manhandled a photographer from the Mawbima newspaper outside the courts yesterday.
The complaint has been forwarded as a letter to the Acting IGP Chandana Wickremeratne.
Inspector Neomal Rangajeewa was seen on Television grabbing cameraman Akila Jayawardene and frog-marching him into the Police Post at the court.
Jayawardene later told reporters that the police had forced him to surrender the memory cards in his camera containing his photos of the day.
Rangajeewa, a former head of the Narcotics Bureau is one of two principal accused in the murder of eight inmates of the Welikada jail in November 2012.
Former Prison Commissioner Emil Ranjan Lamahewa and Prison Officer Indika Sampath are co-accused.
Rangajeewa was suspended by the police after the case was filed but reinstated to the force after the advent of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President.
The murder trial is currently on and photographer Jayawardene was among the media persons outside the courts covering the trial.
At a press conference held this morning at the Department of Government Information Media Minister Bandula Gunewardena said that the state has issued Media Cards to journalists from recognized organisations.
“That card has to give protection to journalists to do their job, and that is why we have asked the Inspector General to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the incident,” Gunewardene said.
Kaluwewa told reporters “it was an incident that should never have happened.”
President Rajapaksa’s government, Gunewardena said wants to assure Media persons that they have the freedom to do their work.
A number of local organisations of Journalists condemned the actions of the accused Inspector.
The Free Media Movement said:
“The right of citizens to be aware of and discuss social issues is a right that nurtures and fosters democracy. Citizens can exercise this right only through the reporting of information by professional journalists. But in the recent past, the obstruction to the work of journalists has continued, and the intimidation especially within the courts, the institution which upholds the rule of law, poses a serious challenge to the democratic rights of citizens. The Free Media Movement Considers this intimidation and obstruction perpetrated by the state officials as a severe problem and a dangerous precedent.”
(Colombo, July 11, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana