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)

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