Close on the heels of the US expressing concern over Friday’s police raid on Sri Lanka Mirror and Lankanews websites, the EU has reminded the Sri Lankan government that any attempt to intimidate the media will amount to a clear violation of UN human rights standards.
The Heads of Mission of the European Union have noted with concern the action taken against the Sri Lanka Mirror and the Lankanews websites. Freedom of the media is a vital element in democratic societies and journalists must be able to carry out their legitimate work without fear of harassment or intimidation. “Any action intended to intimidate independent journalism and or limit freedom of expression is in contradiction to UN human rights standards,” the EU has said in a statement issued yesterday.
Director General of Government Information Department Prof. Ariyaratne Atugala yesterday said that a section of websites couldn’t be allowed to destroy the lives of people. Responding to criticism of the free media being suppressed, Atugala emphasised that the government was determined to act against those using the media to pursue their agendas.Meanwhile Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera while accepting full responsibility for whatever is published in the Lankaxnews, which is the official website of the UNP, denied that the Sri Lanka Mirror website was used to sling mud at any person and that they could find recourse in a court of law at any time.
About 25 CID personnel raided the offices of both Lankaxnews and Sri Lanka Mirror at Pitakotte on Friday (29) afternoon and took in to custody nine employees and seven computers.
Two well known film personalities Damitha Abeyratne and Menaka Rajapakse are on record stating that the raid on the two websites was long over due as they were use to sling and at various well known personalities without any proof.
Samaraweera told The Island yesterday (1) that Lankaxnews was a website that exposed the corruption of the Rajapaksa family and that in a democracy a free media was an irritant to the country’s rulers. He said that Lankaxnews was one of the few websites that was looked at by a wide range of people.
Samaraweera said he considered the raid as a clumsy attempt to arrest and harass employees of Sri Lankaxnews and Sri Lanka Mirror websites.
The nine employees were granted bail on Saturday (30 by the Colombo Magistrate Court.
By Lal Gunasekera