For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The space for the media and civil society actors and for dissent in general continues to be stifled in the post-¬‐war context, with a number of incidents of violence, intimidation and restrictions on actors attempting to exercise their democratic rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
This is in a climate where those who are critical of Government policies and action have been attacked, threatened and labelled ‘traitors’. In addition to the acts of violence and intimidation, there have been efforts at the policy level to target Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and media including the Parliament Select Committee to look into NGO activities, blocking of news websites, recurring calls to impose new restrictions on NGOs including legislation to control NGO activities and greater financial scrutiny over civil society and media actors. This is also in a context where the legal and policy framework needs to be revised and new laws and amendments introduced such as the Right to Information legislation. Civil society organizations, especially those involved in empowerment or rights work in the North find it challenging to secure permission to carry out activities. Placed under surveillance it is extremely difficult for them to function. There needs to be greater recognition of the role played by civil society and greater space for such actors in the country.
CPA makes the following recommendations including reiterating those made in the LLRC report:
a) Steps should be taken to prevent harassment and attacks on media personnel and institutions. [LLRC -¬‐ 9.115]. Similar measures should be taken to address the threats faced by civil society organisations, community groups and human rights defenders.
b) Right to peaceful assembly and protest should be respected and steps taken to prevent violence being used to breakup meetings and demonstrations.
c) Action must be taken to impose deterrent punishment for such offences and priority given to the investigation, prosecution and disposal of such cases, including those from the past. [LLRC -¬‐ 9.115].
d) Legislation should be enacted to ensure the right to information. [LLRC -¬‐ 9.115].
e) Civil society organizations both local NGOs and international humanitarian organizations should be allowed to engage in and support human rights, psycho-¬‐social and peace related programmes. ([LLRC -¬‐ 5.94], [LLRC -¬‐ 5.98], [LLRC -¬‐ 5.125],
[LLRC -¬‐ 5.131].
CPA short-‐Term Benchmarks for Peace and Reconciliation in Post-‐War Sri Lanka
By Bhavani Fonseka, Luwie Ganeshathasan & Mirak Raheem
Centre for Policy Alternatives
30 May 2012