Post-election crackdown on media
RSF urges President to act
Two days after he was declared the winner of this week’s election, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) appealed to President Mahinda Rajapaksa to put a stop to the spate of arrests and cases of intimidation of journalists working for privately-owned and foreign media.
“This wave of post-election violence could cast a lasting stain on the start of President Rajapaksa’s second term and bodes ill for the political climate during the coming years,” said Reporters Without Borders, which highlighted an increase in election violence and censorship in countries such as Iran and Tunisia in its latest press freedom roundup.
The group also reminds the President of his promise to encourage press freedom, which he has repeated time and time again, including a meeting with a Reporters Without Borders representative in October 2008. “It is quite normal for journalists and privately-owned media to side with a candidate before and during a democratic election but it is unacceptable for them to be the victims of reprisals once the election is over,” the press freedom organization added.
Police and unidentified groups are said to be targeting the media, especially the ones that had supported the common opposition candidate, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, ever since the announcement of the result, which some opposition sectors, including Fonseka are disputing. Sri Lanka’s five major media rights organizations have issued a joint statement condemning what they called, “post-election media suppression.”
Police on Friday arrested Chandana Sirimalwatta, the editor of Lanka, a newspaper that supports the JVP, which is an opposition party, after he responded to a summons for questioning about an article published on January 26. The President’s brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, threatened to burn the newspaper down a few days ago. Plain-clothes officers using a car with the licence plate 32/ 8432 yesterday evening sealed off the entrance to the office of the Lankaenews website. Men searched the office earlier in the day. The website itself has been rendered inaccessible for the past few days by the state telecommunications company Sri Lanka Telecom. Reporters Without Borders also urges President Rajapaksa to assign more police officers to speed up the search for political affairs reporter and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who has been missing since January 24. His family has had no news of him since then.
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