Freddy Gamage, the convener of the Professional Web Journalists Association (PWJA) says that they hold the Government responsible for disrupting their two day on 27/28 Sep 2014.
Issuing a statement he says that he was told the local police and by an officer from the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) on 27 September morning that they have information of a protest in front of the hotel, if we were to have the training session for our media personnel. The training session was to begin at 03.00 pm that same day. Over a dozen officers had visited the hotel to warn the owners of such a protest, if we were allowed to have our training sessions in the hotel.’
Read the full statement below:
29 September, 2014
We Hold The Government Responsible In Disrupting Journalists’ Programme
We, as the Professional Web Journalists Association (PWJA) organised a two day training programme for our membership on 27 and 28 September, 2014 at a beach resort in Kudapaduwa, Negambo, Sri Lanka. This was disrupted by the police using the usual threat of “people who would protest” against the training sessions that could result in a breach of peace. Such organised mobs were used before in disrupting training sessions for journalists and hoteliers were coerced to cancel all bookings for any programme that involves media personnel. The same method of using protesting groups were used against families who gathered in Colombo to discuss about their missing family members.
This time too, I the undersigned as Convenor of PWJA was informed by the local police and by an officer from the Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) on 27 September morning that they have information of a protest in front of the hotel, if we were to have the training session for our media personnel. The training session was to begin at 03.00 pm that same day. Over a dozen officers had visited the hotel to warn the owners of such a protest, if we were allowed to have our training sessions in the hotel. Under such threat, helpless as they were, the hotel owners were compelled to cancel the booking. We were therefore forced to reorganise the training programme elsewhere, after much hassle.
This behaviour of the police that continues without any censure or warning from the Inspector General of Police, the Ministry Secretary and from the Minister for Law and Order, who is also the President of Sri Lanka, obviously means this regime can only live with such repression. Therefore the police is used by the regime to provide undisturbed space for mobs resorting to violence in public, as a tool to suppress civil activities.
This by a President, a minister, a ministry Secretary, the IGP and others in the hierarchy who have taken a pledge to uphold the complete Constitution in spirit and to the letter. This Constitution very clearly says in its Article 12.1, “every Citizen is equal before the Law and is entitled to equal protection by the law”. Where was that “equal protection” to the media personnel who assembled to further their professional skills ? That protection was only possible, if the police arrested those who were to stage protests as the police had prior information as claimed by them. They did not and they thus violated the right of our members to have equal protection by the law.
Also, the President and every member of this ruling regime had pledged to uphold this republican Constitution and its Article 14 that says,
14.1 Every citizen is entitled to –
a. the freedom of speech and expression, including publication
b. the freedom of peaceful assembly
c. the freedom of association
Freedom of speech and expression, including publication does not have any worth without the Right to Information. The right to information and their dissemination is facilitated by the media in any democratic society. The importance of a free and independent media that is responsible only to the Citizens, is therefore what guarantees all rights enshrined in Chapter III of the Constitution. This regime is violating all these Constitutionally established rights of its Citizens who alone are Sovereign and not the regime.
We therefore hold this government wholly responsible for violating the Rights enshrined in the Constitution. We hold the government responsible for all violations of law in suppressing the media. We therefore call upon the people to safeguard the media from being suppressed in order to have access to information, without bias and without tinkering by the ruling regime. A right the people are entitled to enjoy.