Sri Lankan media rights group slams action against state TV journalists

Sept 28, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lankan and international media rights watchdogs Friday strongly criticized action by a state television broadcaster to suspend four journalists for distributing a leaflet that said their professional rights had been harmed. State-controlled Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) has sent four of its journalists on compulsory leave after they submitted a letter stating that their professional rights had been disrespected and damaged, the Free Media Movement (FMM) said in a statement.

SLRC Producers’ Union chairman Kanchana Marasinghe, organizer Herbert Kumara Alagiyawanna, Athula Peiris and Ravi Abewickrama also distributed leaflets to other staff related to the letter, said the FMM, which is affiliated to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Its statement did not say what the journalists’ grievance was.

“Forcing these journalists to go on leave is unnecessary, unjust and a clear breach of their professional rights,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqui Park said, “The IFJ calls on the SLRC to negotiate with the journalists and their Association.”

The SLRC has claimed that the journalists distributed the leaflets during working hours, but the FMM said their sources said the leaflets were distri