FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Ban on News Website Lifted, Journalist Released from Custody

Shantha Wijesuriya

Media Release: Sri Lanka
May 13, 2011
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the decision by a Sri Lanka court to order the release of journalist Shantha Wijesooriya and lift the ban on the Lanka-e-News website, which was ordered blocked after contempt charges were brought against it.

Wijesooriya was arrested on April 25 by local police at the Lanka-e-News offices in Colombo and charged with contempt of court. Lanka-e-News conceded a report it had published under his byline was incorrect and posted two apologies. The news organisation pledged to cooperate fully in the contempt proceedings.

Despite the conciliatory tone, the Magistrate’s Court whose decision was questioned in the news report ordered Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) on April 28 to suspend the online services of Lanka-e-News. The court also ordered that Wijesooriya be remanded in custody until May 12.

At its hearing on May 12, the magistrate acknowledged the importance of the free speech right and accepted the apologies from the website. He cautioned Wijesooriya to exercise greater care in his writing and proceeded to close the matter.

“The IFJ is relieved to see that this outcome and hopes it is precursor to a more settled and cordial relationship between the Sri Lanka media and the institutions of governance, with due space being given for the right of all to criticise freely and fairly,” IFJ Asia Pacific said.

“Meanwhile, we urge the Sri Lankan authorities to proceed with investigations into the numerous attacks that the Lanka-e-News web portal has suffered in recent times, including the disappearance of columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda in January 2010, the arson attack in January this year which destroyed its offices in suburban Colombo, and the arrest of news editor Bennett Rupasinghe in April.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +91-9810518009

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