FMM slams Wimal's phone threat

Mar 18 (IL) The Free Media Movement has condemned JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa's threat to Lankadeepa Chief Editor Siri Ranasinghe, saying his action tantamounts to forceful censorship by politicians.

The FMM says in a statement that if politicians were to make threatening phone calls to editors on late evenings regarding articles, features or advertisements due to be published the following day there would not be any press freedom and it would tantamount to forceful censorship by politicians.

The statement said that if there were any damaging articles or advertisements published by the media, politicians or any citizen could seek legal remedies or go to the newly set-up Press Complains Commission.

"No body has a right to threaten an editor to get any article or advertisements withdrawn. Although Mr. Weerawansa has apologised for his phone call, the FMM believes that this tendency has to be condemned unconditionally," the FMM said calling on all political party leaders and their followers to respect the freedom of expression and not to intimidate journalists, editors or media institutions especially during a general election campaign.

The FMM also condemned the death threats issued to Dinesh Vihagun Fernando, news editor of Laknada, a small Sinhala weekend newspaper.

According to Mr. Fernando's complain to the FMM, he has received several threatening calls while several employees of the paper had been threatened with firearms. Mr. Fernando has been given police protection.

The FMM urged the police to speed up the inquiry and bring the culprits to the book. Last week in another incident related to press freedom, thousands of copies of Tamil language newspapers, Thinakural and Veerakesaree, were set on fire by politically motivated gangs in the east, against a backdrop of a split in the LTTE.

While condemning this act, the FMM said it earnestly hoped that the media would be able to report the political developments related to the split without any hindrance.