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05 May, 2008 - Published 12:15 GMT

FMM protests Gotabhaya's 'threats'

The Free Media Movement (FMM) in Sri Lanka has strongly protested threatening remarks by the powerful Defence Secretary.

In an interview with a state-run television station, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has called on the government to ban independent media that publish “harmful” stories towards security forces.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s younger brother has described the journalists who report on the casualty figures of war as “traitors” of the nation.

Strongly condemning the remarks, the FMM has called for urgent clarification from the President and the government whether it is the official point of view.

Press freedom 'predator'

“A regime that openly calls for censorship, clamps down on critical voices of dissent and is defined by vulturine thugs who prey on independent media is antithetical with the strengthening of media freedom in Sri Lanka,” the FMM statement said.

The controversial Defence Secretary is continuously accused of threatening press freedom in Sri Lanka.

Paris based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) last week named him as one of the few “predators” of press freedom in the world.

LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is the only other Sri Lankan named as a “press freedom predator” in the report issued to mark the World Press Freedom Day.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is also accused of threatening Daily Mirror editor, Champika Liyanaarachchi.

He has also threatened to “exterminate” the Daily Mirror journalist Uditha Jayasinghe, for writing articles about the plight of civilian war casualties, the FMM recalled.

“Statements such as this must be condemned. The Defence Secretary must be held accountable for his words and reigned in,” the statement issued on Monday added.