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Sri Lanka raids news website office; 9 arrested

Sri Lanka raids news website office; 9 arrested

Sri Lankan police have sealed off an office that runs independent and pro-opposition news websites, arrested nine workers and seized computers and documents, said the government and a media rights group in one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists.
A government statement said that "police officers, acting on a court order, searched and sealed off the office" on Friday and that the "websites had published erroneous information about people recognized in society" and had "tarnished Sri Lanka's image."
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HASH(0x1901d530)
Friday's police action clearly shows that "the government has not stopped its campaign to harass and intimidate the independent media institutions and journalists in Sri Lanka," said Gnanasiri Kottigoda, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, a local media rights group.
More than a dozen police officers surrounded the office in Kotte, on the outskirts of the capital, Colombo, and searched the premises for about three hours Friday, said Kottigoda and an eyewitness who asked not to be named.
They seized computers and documents and drove the nine workers, including the editor of one of the websites, away in police vehicles, both said.
The government statement said the office was used to enter false information to the Internet and that the investigation was ongoing.
However, Samaraweera said the move was part of the government's "witch hunt against the free media" and accused the government of trying to suppress "dissenting voices."
He said his party's website, srilankaxnews.com, had exposed corruption and other wrongdoings of the government, triggering Friday's raid.
Kottigoda condemned the move and said "we see this as a move to silence the independent media in Sri Lanka."
Even if the websites published false information or caused character assassination, Sri Lanka has ways to take legal action and punish them. Without doing so, using police to raid offices of independent media institutions can't be acceptable, Kottigoda said.
http://www.srilankamirror.com
http://www.srilankamirror.com
The blocking of the websites drew wide criticism from media rights groups and countries, including the United States.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said Sri Lanka was the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in 2010.
Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lanka media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006.
Media rights groups blame the government for failing to properly investigate several attacks on journalists and media institutions and arrest the culprits.


Updated : 2021-03-01 16:07 GMT+08:00