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Protect right to protest & press freedom – AI

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The South Asian Regional Office of Amnesty International has said that they have received reports of the GotaGoGama protest site in Colombo being attacked by the Police and the Military.

"This is unacceptable. The authorities must stand down immediately! The right to protest must be protected. Sri Lankan authorities must immediately cease these acts of violence and release those arrested unlawfully in this manner," they had Tweeted.

"Authorities must also protect the freedom of the press. Journalists must not be barred from ‘Gotagogama’. Blocking journalists from doing their jobs directly violates freedom of the press," they have added.

GalleFace Twitter

Journalists assaulted

Meanwhile, BBC Sinhala Service has reported that one of their journalists at the scene was assaulted and their footage forcibly deleted.

Mr. Anbarasan Ethirajan has reported as follows for BBC News :

When we heard that troops might be raiding the anti-government protest site in Colombo after midnight, we went to the spot just in front of the Sri Lankan president's office.

Soon, hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and police commandos with riot gear descended from two directions, their faces covered.

When activists raised objections to their presence, the security personnel marched on and became aggressive. The protesters were pushed back.

Within seconds, we saw soldiers shouting, dismantling and destroying make-shift tents and other items on the pavement. Troops also moved into the president's office which was stormed by huge crowds last week.

Activists had earlier said they would hand over the building on Friday afternoon. As we followed the soldiers, we could see they were clearing everything in their way.

The protesters were pushed up to the designated protest site less than 100m away and steel barricades were set up to stop the activists.

When we were returning from the area, a man in civilian clothes, surrounded by troops, shouted at my colleague and said he wanted to delete the videos from his phone. Within seconds the man punched my colleague and snatched his phone.

Though I explained to them we were journalists and simply doing our job, they wouldn't listen. My colleague was attacked further and we raised strong objections. The mic of another BBC colleague was taken and thrown away.

The phone was returned after the videos were deleted from the device. Another army officer intervened and let us go.

My colleague was shaken but was able to walk back to the hotel, a few hundred metres away.

The BBC tried to get a response from the military and police on the attack, but no-one answered our calls. A state of emergency declared last week is still in place.

Brute force will not help - BASL President

Earlier in a Facebook message, President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has said that he had learnt of several arrests and assaults in the area.

"The authorities must ensure the safety of everyone and their whereabouts must be made known. I have tried to contact the IGP and also messaged the Army Commander. Unnecessary use of brute force will not help this country and its international image," he emphasises.

Related News :
Military enters Galle Face protest area (Video)

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