News producer knifed

January 25, 2008
Posted  February 7, 2008

Lal Hemantha Mawalage, Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation

The news producer of a national television network, who was recently involved in a staff protest against Labor Minister Mervyn Silva, was targeted in a knife attack in a suburb of Colombo on January 25, according to Sunanda Deshapriya of local press freedom group Free Media Movement (FMM), and local news reports. Mawalage was admitted to hospital with severe cuts to his hands after fending off his attackers, but was discharged in a day after undergoing minor surgery, Deshapriya told CPJ.

Mawalage was targeted by two unidentified men who used motorbikes to block the van he was driving home in Athurugiriya, a suburb of the capital, news reports said. 

The producer was prominently involved in a staff protest against Silva and spoke against him live on air on December 27, 2007, when the minister and several followers barged into the channel’s Colombo office, complaining about the its coverage and assaulting a staff member. The incident escalated into a standoff between Silva and Rupavahini staff, who barricaded the minister into an office for several hours before police intervened, according to the BBC.

Several of the news channel’s employees have since received threats, according to FMM. Mawalage had already lodged a police complaint after receiving death threats by phone, according to the Web site of the national SundayIsland newspaper.

FMM also documented a threat against Rupavahini media worker Duleep Dushantha on January 29, while a statement issued by a coalition of Sri Lankan media organizations lead by FMM listed police complaints filed by three journalists who had received death threats subsequent to covering the incident involving de Silva.