Journalists reporting protest to oust Sri Lanka president beaten up 'black and blue'

Security forces and police resorted to violence injuring at least eight journalists covering a protest aimed at sacking the president of Sri Lanka for his failure to provide essential goods including food and medicine at affordable prices.

This is the largest number of Sinhala journalists to be assaulted at one place in recent times. Tamil and Muslim journalists while on duty have regularly come under attack in the heavily militarised north and east.

"I managed to save my head because I was wearing a helmet. We never thought that journalists will be attacked in such a manner as we even work with top people in government," said Awanka Kumara of Sirasa TV whose video camera was also smashed by baton charging police.

"They have been beaten up black and blue" said a lawyer who visited the injured in custody.

Growing discontent

On April fools day thousands summoned via social media networks gathered near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's private residence in the Colombo suburb of Mirihana urging him to step down.

Unable to bear with13-hour power cuts, skyrocketing prices, a lack of fuel, cooking gas, essential food items and medicines, public anger was directed at Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the most popular leader among the Sinhala majority two years ago.

Protesters who convened peacefully at first chanting 'Gota go Home' were agitated after police fired tear gas, water cannons and beat those at the scene. Some were seen pelting stones and other projectiles.

Among those brutally assaulted were at least eight journalists from mainstream media. Some were arrested later to be released on bail. JDS has received reports about several other unidentified freelance journalists reporting for websites were also manhandled by the armed soldiers.

The military, police and para-military Special Task Force have been named as the perpetrators by the victims.

Sumedha Sanjeewa Gallage (Derana TV), Nishshanka Werapitiya (Derana TV), Pradeep Wickramasinghe (Derana TV), Awanka Kumara (Sirasa TV), Waruna Wanniarachchi, (Lankādeepa), Nisal Baduge (Daily Mirror), Chatura Deshan (Sirasa TV) and Lahiru Chamara (Derana TV) were among the journalists who sustained injuries.

Some were arrested alongside scores of protesters to be later released on bail after more than 300 lawyers intervened in solidarity.


Meanwhile, a youth involved in a social media campaign demanding president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down has been abducted from his home in Gampola, in Central Sri Lanka during the early hours of Saturday (1).

Thisara Anurudda Bandara (28), a young social media activist was taken away by a group of men who claimed to be from the Mutwal police station in Colombo. The police which initially denied having any knowledge of the arrest, later confirmed to Sri Lanka Huma Rights Commission that he is being held by the Crime Division at the same police station.

The abduction was reported hours after president Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency that allows the military to arrest and detain suspects without warrants.

The lawyers who visited Anuruddha Bandara in custody were told by the police that he was arrested under the section 120 of Sri Lanka Penal Code, which makes it an offence to “excite or attempt to excite feelings of disaffection to the State”.

The Section 120 has been used against the opponents of the government including Tamil parliamentarians in the past and has become a tool to stifle dissent. 

 © JDS


Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

  • JDS is the Sri Lankan partner organization of international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The launching of this website was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.