Since late March, spontaneous street protests have been held across Sri Lanka calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and several others from the Rajapaksa family who held ministerial positions before resigning in the wake of protests. Triggered by massive price hikes and shortages of gas, fuel, electricity, food, medicine and fertilizer, social media has also been an important battle ground for protestors.
Journalists injured, obstructed, threatened and penalised for joining protests
On the night of March 31 and in the early hours of April 1, many protesters and bystanders were beaten and arrested as they marched to the President’s residence in Colombo. At least nine journalists were injured with several being hospitalised and at least one undergoing surgery. Some journalists were beaten despite identifying themselves. One was denied medical assistance at the police station. Cameras were also damaged. When a well-known journalist returned to the site the next day for additional reporting, he was threatened by individuals who claimed to be from the President’s Media division and was compelled to leave the area.
The arrests and attacks on both protesters and journalists led to widespread condemnation and hundreds of lawyers came to the police and courts to defend the detained free of charge. Journalists from the Mulaitheevu Press Club in the North were among those who condemned and protests the attacks against journalists in Colombo.