Monthly Archives: April 2011

Sri Lanka: Journalist arrested on contempt of court charges

Press release/ 26 April 2011
Networking for Rights (NfR) expresses it serious concern that Lanka-e-News journalists Shantha Wijesuriya has been arrested and remanded on contempt of court charges. He was arrested by Kiridiwela police on 25th  April and  has been remanded till 28th April.

Lanka-e-News web site has been facing  unending of  attacks, threats and intimidations since the presidential election of January 2010. Soon after the election the site was temporarily blocked by the authorities.  Its editor was constantly threatened with death  forcing him to leave the country. On 31st January 2011 the rented premises came under arson attack forcing them to share a office with NGO  linked to an opposition political party. On 31st March 2011 its news editor was arrested on fabricated charges. Reporters of the website were intimidated and followed.  Lawyers who appear for the News editor received threats.

On 22nd  April Pugoda Magistrate Aravinda Perera directed the Police to arrest and produce the  Editor of Lanka e-News website before the courts on alleged charges of publishing a false news item regarding a case being heard at the court. Journalist Shantha Wijesuriya was arrested even after the web site published an unconditional apology for publishing the  news item in question.

NfR express its fear that arrest of journalist Shantha Wijesuriya will further shrink the space for critical opinion in Sri Lanka strengthening the prevalent self censorship among media patricians in Sri Lanka.

At the same time NfR hope that considering  that the website has already published a complete apology, the court will release Mr. Shantha Wijesuriya on 28th April 2011.

Issued by
Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

Sri Lanka: Restrictions imposed on Uthayan daily violates peoples’ right to information

Press release/ 12 April 2011
According to the press freedom watch dog,  the Free Media Movement of Sri Lanka, the Jaffna Municipal Council has prohibited all government offices, departments and establishment, including libraries in Jaffna  from subscribing to or purchasing the Uthayan newspaper. The Council  has  also  requested  government officials not to invite any journalists from the newspaper to cover state events, interact with the journalists, provide any information or send press releases to this newspaper.  Uthayan’s  readership far exceed all other newspapers printed or sold in the Jaffna Peninsula and is owned by  Mr. Saravanapavan, a Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament for the Jaffna District.

NfR views this undemocratic action as a continuation of  suppression of freedom of expression  and the right to information  in Sri Lanka.  Furthermore this is an intimidation and an indirect threat to the media in general and  the independent Tamil media in Sri Lanka, in particular.

NfR expresses its  serious concern over this decision of the  Jaffna Municipal Council.  which   is controlled by the ruling coalition in the country.  There is  no other media outlet in Sri Lanka other than the Uthayan, which has faced untold sufferings due to continuous  intimidations and threats  by  state actors.   During the conflict the Uthayan news paper   has played a vital role in providing information to  people over the  last three decades under very trying circumstances.   It is in that  context that NfR  expresses its view  that banning Uthayan from government institutions is  a clear violation of the right  to information.

In condemning this undemocratic action by the Jaffna Municipal Council, perhaps at the behest of the  ruling party, the NfR expresses its solidarity with Uthayan and its staff  in their endeavour  to provide  news and  alternate  points of view on current events   to it readership.

Issued by

Steering Committee, NfR Sri Lanka

NfR urge the IGP not to oppose bail application of journalist Bennet Rupasinghe and to conduct speedy impartial investigation

Mahinda Balasuriya  Esqr.,
Inspector General of Police,
Police Headquarters,

Colombo 1,
Sri Lanka

Dear Sir,

Arrest and Detention of Mr. Bennet Rupasinghe, News Editor of Lanka-e-news

NfR, Net work of Sri Lanka journalists and human rights defenders in exile would like to bring to your urgent attention to following facts regarding the arrest and continued detention of Mr. Bennet Rupesinghe  a senior journalist and the news editor of Lanka-e-News website.

As you know Mr. Rupesinghe was taken into custody on the morning of 31st March, 2011.  Mr. Rupesinghe had been interrogated  for 3 hours,  particularly regarding phone calls made from and received by him on his mobile phone. According to our information  Mr. Rupesinghe has denied  making any threatening calls to anyone, as alleged by the Police.  As a senior journalist and news editor, Mr. Rupesinghe receives and responds to numerous calls throughout the day. He has told his interrogators that he has  no specific recollection of any  suspicious call from a particular number.

Mr. Rupesinghe was refused bail  and remanded by Kaduwela Magistrate till 7th April. He will be produced in the courts tomorrow, 7th April, 2011.  Mr. Rupesinghe is 68 years old, and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the information we have, he has been prevented

from receiving food from home.  Since the arson attack on the Lanka e-News office on 31st January this year, state controlled media has published numerous and contradictory reports sourced to unnamed police officers saying that the attack was an inside job. Some of those news stories are completely false. Various organisations have cast their doubts  regarding the lack of a credible investigation by the local police into that incident.

In this context we would wish to remind that that a the head of the Police Service  it is your duty to ensure  that an impartial and speedy investigation is carried out  not only on the incident of  arson but also on those misleading media reports as well.  The members of the staff of the website have  expressed fear that there could be a  plan to implicate them as being responsible for that incident.

In the circumstances NfR  wishes to urge you to  direct the  Kaduwela Police not to object to  Mr. Rupasinghe being granted bail

when he is produced before Court tomorrow and to complete the investigation into the allegations against him

as early as possible so that Mr. Rupasinghe could be released without delay.

NfR calls upon you to  ensure that  an independent, impartial and credible investigation is conducted  into the arson attack

on the Lanka e-news office in January 2011 and help to win the confidence  the people  in  the  efficiency   and capability   of the Sri Lanka Police.

Yours truly,

NfR Steering committee : Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France),
Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)