Free expression under assault in Sri Lanka


The World Report 2013 isued today by Human Rights watch states that ‘ Free expression remained under assault in 2012 in Sri Lanka.

The report states ‘ Media reported increased surveillance and clampdowns on free speech. In June 2012, the Criminal Investigation Department raided the offices of the Sri LankaMirror, a news website, and the Sri Lanka X News website of the opposition United National Party.

The authorities confiscated computers and documents and arrested nine people on the grounds that the websites were “propagating false and unethical news on Sri Lanka.” They were charged under article 120 of the penal code, which imposes up to two years in prison for those who “excite or attempt to excite feelings of disaffection to the president or to the government.”

The nine were released on bail the day after their arrest.

‘The government shut down at least five news websites critical of the government in 2012 and put in place onerous registration requirements and fees for all web-based media services’.

‘There were no further developments in the case of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a contributor to Lanka E-news, who disappeared on January 24, 2010. Attorney General Mohan Peiris, summoned to testify in Colombo, retracted a previous statement where he had claimed that Ekneligoda had not disappeared but had willingly moved abroad’, the report states.

In the 665-page report, its 23rd annual review of human rights practices around the globe, Human Rights Watch summarizes major issues in more than 90 countries.

Referring to Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances, the report states : ‘ The police and security forces continue to enjoy overly broad detention powers.

The president issued monthly decrees granting the armed forces search and detention powers, effectively granting police powers to the army.

Despite the end of the formal state of emergency in 2011, the government continued to hold without trial several thousand people initially detained under the emergency regulations. In spite of public commitments, the government also failed to publish comprehensive lists of the names of the detained, as well as places of detentions.

The government released most of the more than 11,000 suspected LTTE members detained at the end of the war’ the report states.


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