For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The data obtained from the computers confiscated by the CID during the raid of two news websites – SriLanka Mirror and Sri LankaXnews – are still being analyzed, a senior police officer said. The computers have been sent to the University of Colombo for analysis of the data, he said. Meanwhile the raid on the two offices has come under criticism from media rights groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on the government to stop harassing news organizations.
UN Secretary General’s spokesman Martin Nesirky, has stated that not just journalists in Sri Lanka but all over the world should be able to carry on their work without interference. The European Union has condemned the raid.
Meanwhile UNP Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera told the Sunday Times this incident clearly proves the continuation of harassment of the media in Sri Lanka.
“In these news sites we highlighted, on many occasions, where the government has failed. These websites give extensive coverage to the misdeeds of the government and that is the main reason why the raids were conducted. Since the government was unable to counter the information revealed in these sites, the sites were raided using the law, he said. He said his party will not stay mum regarding this matter but would write to the UN, the Commonwealth and other concerned parties. He further added that Sri Lanka is now known as the 4th most dangerous place for journalists.
Meanwhile the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on Friday said it has so far blocked at least nine web sites. A TRC officer said the websites which were blocked are lankaenews.com, lankaway.com, srilankagardian.org, lankanenews.web, papara-zinews.com, ravayanews.com, elakirinews.com, janad-ipathi.com and lankaleeks.com
“The TRC doesn’t go into the content of the websites. Anyone can create a website under us but when we get complaints we look into the matter and if the particular website has violated any rules we take action to block it,” an official from the TRC said.
Mass Media and Information Ministry Keheliya Rambukwella stated that the government is to amend the law which already exists for media organizations and include news websites in it.
According to this amendment news sites will have to register under the ministry, he said.
Mass Media and Information Ministry Secretary W. B. Ganegala said through this amendment we can identify the owner of the site, the editor or the journalists who are working in it, so that when we get a complaint we can act accordingly.
Meanwhile, Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament the raid on the two websites was an infringement of the right of expression under the Constitution. He said that the police had violated the Code of Discipline of the Police by this act. “It is a punishable offence to engage in such indisciplined actions,” he said. He explained that there is no legal basis for the police to take individuals into custody under a law which is not in force. However, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Leader of the House, stated that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) acted according to the law in executing the raid. He said that the raid was made by the CID following a warrant issued by the Colombo Magistrate.
By Aanya Wipulasena