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Rights group: Sri Lanka govt harassing journalists

Rights group: Sri Lanka govt harassing journalists

An international human rights group is urging the Sri Lankan government to stop what it says is postelection harassment of journalists and news media.
New-York based Human Rights Watch said that since Tuesday's presidential election, authorities have detained and questioned several journalists, blocked news Web sites and expelled a foreign journalist. At least one journalist has been assaulted and several have been threatened.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a resounding victory in the balloting, beating former army chief Sarath Fonseka by 17 percentage points.
"Now that the president has been re-elected, there appears to be a settling of scores with critics of the government," Human Rights Watch's Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement Friday night. "Just days after the election, some officials seem to be on a campaign to abuse their power."
On Friday, detectives questioned Chandana Sirimalwatte, an editor of a newspaper that backed Fonseka and has reported on alleged government corruption.
Authorities also ordered a Swiss radio journalist to leave the country by Monday after she asked critical questions at a postelection news conference, said Andreas Notter, a spokesman for the national broadcaster.
Notter said the Sri Lankan government gave no reason for the expulsion of South Asia correspondent Karin Wenger.
Human Rights Watch said authorities have blocked access to at least five news Web sites since the day before the election.
On Thursday, a group of armed men surrounded the office of one of the blocked Web sites, Lanka e news, which was critical of Rajapaksa. The office was later sealed off.
A regular contributor to the same Web site, Prageeth Ekneligoda, has been missing since leaving his office two days before the election.
Ravi Abeywickrama, a state television employee, was assaulted after signing a statement with 60 other state media employees condemning the alleged misuse of state media to promote Rajapaksa's election campaign, the group said.
"We fear that this is just the beginning of a campaign to get rid of critical voices before the parliamentary elections," said Adams.
Rajapaksa can dissolve parliament and call new elections at any point between now and April.
Media rights groups say Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places for dissenting journalists.
Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists and media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006.


Updated : 2021-07-29 02:28 GMT+08:00