Sri Lankan TV stops live telecasts protesting violence

March 14th, 2008 - 10:03 pm ICT by admin  


Colombo, March 14 (IANS) Employees of a Sri Lanka’s state-run television network Rupavahini Friday stopped all live telecast except news in protest against a series of violent assaults against them in the past two months. Sources in Rupavahini said there would be no live telecasts till Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa intervenes and assures he would put an end to the violence against the employees.

Friday’s attack on staffer Anurasiri Hettige by an unidentified gang wielding iron rods had proved to be the proverbial last straw. Writhing in pain and profusely bleeding, Hettige was rushed to the Colombo National Hospital where he was treated in the emergency ward.

On March 5, the chief librarian, Ranjani Aluthge, was slashed in the neck, back and shoulders with a sharp instrument by an unknown gang. She had to be hospitalised. A week earlier, news cameraman Piyal Ranjith Perera was attacked. Senior producer Hemantha Mawalage had suffered the same fate earlier. Several other senior employees had allegedly receive threats.

Attacks on the staff followed an ugly incident Dec 27 in which the employees of the station forcibly detained junior labour minister Mervyn Silva for several hours and beat him up. The employees had alleged that Silva had stormed into the office of the director of news, and assaulted him for not showing him a programme.

Going beyond beating up the minister, who is known to use thugs against his detractors, the employees took the extraordinary step of showing the incident live on the national hook-up.

The Rajapaksa government had promised action against the minister, but no action followed. Instead, the police began questioning the Rupavahini staffers. And the director of news, who minister Silva had allegedly assaulted, sought transfer on the grounds that he was receiving threats.

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