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Harassment of journalist in Atalugama: Free Media Movement calls for justice

Image credit: ITU Pictures/Flickr

ECONOMYNEXT – The widely reported harassment faced by journalist Bimal Shyaman in Atalugama recently was a serious violation of media freedom that should not have occurred under any circumstance, the Free Media Movement (FMM) said.

In a statement issued yesterday condemning the incident, the media rights watchdog urged authorities to ensure justice prevails and called on media institutions to empower regional journalists to “carry out their work in a broader professional setting”.

On Sunday (24), Shyaman, who works as a regional correspondent for Hiru, Derana and Swarnavahini television networks, had visited Atalugama to cover Ramazan celebrations in the area. Atalugama is a Muslim-majority village that had controversially received some media attention as a hotbed of COVID-19 infection – an assertion that has been widely contested. The FMM noted that Shyaman had visited Atalugama that day on the invitation of the governing body of a local mosque to report how a community that was isolated and quarantined until a few weeks ago were conducting their religious observances.

According to the FMM’s statement, while a majority of the locals had worked closely with Shyaman, one group had hurled abuse at him and caused some damage to his vehicle. They had then threatened to physically harm him if footage of the incident was telecast on TV.

The organisation speculated that the reason for this behaviour might be attributed to recent media reports that had cast dubious aspersions on residents of Atalaguma, making them look suspicious in the eyes of the public.

“However, the Free Media Movement sees that such issues of media ethics can only be resolved through broad media reform and not by threats or obstructions. In the process of democracy, the media and the citizen must be on the same platform, which is very important when those in power act in a threatening manner,” the FMM said.

“The Free Media Movement condemns the incident faced by journalist Bimal Shyaman and reiterates that such incidents should never occur in a democratic space,” it added. (Colombo/May27/2020)

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