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NewsSri Lanka Military collects intelligence reports on journalists, RTI appeal reveals

Sri Lanka Military collects intelligence reports on journalists, RTI appeal reveals

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Image: Dileep Amuthan (face book)

Responding to queries by the RTI commission of Sri Lanka,  Sri Lanka Army has indirectly admitted that  it collect intelligence reports on journalists.  Uthayan print journalist , G. Dileep Amuthan, 361 Kasthuriyar Road, Jaffna has made a RTI request on 28.09.2017 to obtain information on Military run business and the allegations of Sri Lankan peacekeepers deployed to Haiti being perpetrators of sexual abuse of Haitian citizens in 2007.

Instead of providing the requested information military has  asked Dileep Amuthan to submit his national ID certified by a relevant authority. It further said that it was in possession of a Military Intelligence Report on journalist Dileep Amuthan and was hesitant to release the information as a result.

It its order RTIC says that “In principle, it must be strongly emphasized that if any Public Authority commences to obtain Military Intelligence reports in regard to citizens purely on the basis that they are filing Right to Information requests which is a legitimate and legal procedure under the Right to Information (RTI) Act passed by the Sri Lanka Parliament, then the fundamental objectives of the Act would be negated”

Excerpts from the RTIC Appeal  Dileep Amuthan v. Ministry of Defence:

The Public Authority (SLA) submitted that it was in possession of a Military Intelligence Report concerning the Appellant and was hesitant to release the information as a result.

Responding, the Appellant stated that the PA (SLA) has engaged in a background check on him merely because he filed information requests under and in terms of the RTI Act, thus defeating the purpose of the RTI Act. The Public Authority (SLA) counter responded that the Military Intelligence report that it had in its possession was prior to the Appellant commencing to use the RTI Act.

The Commission drew the attention of the SLA to the fact that the background of an Appellant or the purpose of an information request is not a ground of refusal under the Act. The SLA submitted that it relied on Section 5 (b) (i), namely, “disclosure of such information would undermine the defence of the State, or its territorial integrity or national security” as the concern was that the Appellant being a journalist, will use this information to perpetuate a negative image of the SLA by showing that it is conducting such business ventures. The SLA submitted that this could eventually lead to an unnecessary conflict between the SLA and the Business Communities of the Northern and Eastern Provinces which may in fact affect the ‘defence of the State‟, and/or „national security.‟ as contemplated by the RTI Act.

Order

In principle, it must be strongly emphasized that if any Public Authority commences to obtain Military Intelligence reports in regard to citizens purely on the basis that they are filing Right to Information requests which is a legitimate and legal procedure under the Right to Information (RTI) Act passed by the Sri Lanka Parliament, then the fundamental objectives of the Act would be negated.

While the Commission is not in a position to assess at this stage as to whether this has actually happened in this case or not on the facts before us, it must also be stated that in principle, this would be a matter of grave concern befitting the specific intervention of the Commission if RTI applicants are sought to be intimidated in any way whatsoever.

We note particularly that the background of an Appellant or the purpose of an information request is not a relevant consideration under and in terms of the RTI Act to deny information.

Section 24 (5) (d) of the Act states that;
“A citizen making a request for information shall… not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him or her.”

RTIC Sri Lanka

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