Sri Lankan authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Tharindu Uduwaragedara and investigate allegations that he was beaten by police, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
At around 3 p.m. on Friday, July 28, police arrested Uduwaragedara after he covered a trade union protest in Borella, a suburb of the capital Colombo, according to Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, a rights group operating from exile, and Jayantha Dehiaththage, the journalist’s lawyer, who spoke with CPJ by phone.
Officers pulled Uduwaragedara out of a rickshaw while he was leaving the protest and forced him into a police vehicle while he repeatedly identified himself as a journalist, according to Dehiaththage and video of the incident posted to Twitter.
Two officers beat Uduwaragedara while en route to the Borella Police Station, where he remained detained without charge or access to medical treatment for a head injury as of Friday evening, Dehiaththage said.
“The arrest and police beating of Sri Lankan journalist Tharindu Uduwaragedara are appalling, and authorities must immediately release him and provide him with access to medical care,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Authorities must hold the perpetrators of this attack accountable and ensure that journalists can cover protests without fear of reprisal.”
Uduwaragedara operates the political affairs YouTube channel Satahan Radio, which has over 170,000 subscribers.
He is due to appear before a Colombo magistrate on Saturday, Dehiaththage told CPJ, saying that authorities had not disclosed any specific allegations against the journalist.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protest, where demonstrators had gathered to oppose the slashing of pension funds amid a severe economic crisis.
CPJ called police spokesperson Nihal Thalduwa and contacted him via messaging app for comment, but did not receive any replies.