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SL Government Does Not Respect Freedom of Speech - US

SL Government Does Not Respect Freedom of Speech - US

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Published by: Thavam on Mar 01, 2014
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03/01/2014

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The US report on Human Rights for 2013 has stated that the Sri Lankan government has failed to respect the law that provides for freedom of speechThe report has also referred to the !reedom House report on !reedom of the "ress 2013 where it has said there is #an increase in ver$al threats and intimidation against %ournalists $& government officials' as well as the sale of the Sunda& Leader' formerl& one of the island(s most independent newspapers' to an owner with close affiliation to the ruling  part&)!ollowing is what the US report o$served under !reedom of Speech and "ress*The law provides for freedom of speech' including for mem$ers of the press' $ut the government did not respect this right +overnment officials critici,ed' pressured' harassed' and arrested mem$ers of the media' and most %ournalists practiced self-censorship!reedom of Speech* The constitution protects the right to free speech This right' however' is su$%ect to a host of restrictions' including pu$lic moralit& and national securit& The government attempted to impede criticism throughout the &ear' including through harassment' intimidation' violence' and imprisonment The government monitored political meetings'  particularl& in the north and east There also were credi$le reports that civilian and militar& officials .uestioned local residents and groups who met with foreign diplomats regarding the content of their meetings"ress !reedoms* /n its !reedom of the "ress 2013 report' !reedom House noted serious  pro$lems regarding the countr&(s economic' political' and legal environments for media institutions The report attri$uted the decline in press freedom from the previous &ear to #an increase in ver$al threats and intimidation against %ournalists $& government officials' as well as the sale of the Sunda& Leader' formerl& one of the island(s most independent newspapers' to an owner with close affiliation to the ruling part&) 
 
!rida&' 2 !e$ruar& 201
 
n une 14' the 5inistr& of 5ass 6ommunication and 5edia pu$lished a draft code of ethics for media stating that #no pu$lications should $e pu$lished) that contained #criticism affecting foreign relations) or #materials against the integrit& of the e7ecutive' %udiciar&' and legislature) /f implemented the code also would $an #information which could mislead the pu$lic') that might #promote antinational attitudes') or that #critici,es' maligns' or slanders an& individual or group of persons)The government owned one of the countr&(s largest newspaper chains' two ma%or television stations' and a radio station with eight channels "rivate owners' however' operated a variet& of independent newspapers' %ournals' and radio and television stations The government imposed no political restrictions on the esta$lishment of new media enterprises' although in 8ecem$er the government announced that no licenses would $e granted for new television or radio stations due to a lack of availa$le fre.uencies /n the north' the government restricted $roadcast transmissions /n 2012 the government $uilt a new tower in the 9anni region $ut during the &ear selectivel& $locked one private station from using the tower9iolence and Harassment* :ational and international media freedom organi,ations and  %ournalists( associations e7pressed concern a$out restrictions on media freedom and were sharpl& critical of the government(s role in harassing and intimidating %ournalists State-run media led a widespread campaign against human rights defenders' particularl& those engaged with U: processes' including the 2012 and 2013 U: Human Rights 6ouncil sessions in +eneva "ress freedom activists and organi,ations' human rights defenders' and political activists were accused in the media of conspiring against the countr& $& calling attention to ongoing violations of human rights +overnment officials dispersed and interfered with mem$ership training sessions held $& media groupsSenior government officials repeatedl& accused %ournalists' who pu$lished critical stories a$out the government and its policies' of treason and often pressured editors and pu$lishers to print stories that portra&ed the government in a positive light Sometimes the government reportedl& e7erted such pressure directl& through threats and intimidation;lthough no %ournalist was reported killed or a$ducted during the &ear' fre.uent threats' harassment' detention' and ph&sical attacks on media personnel continued ournalists continued to flee the countr& due to fear for their safet& Statements $& government and militar& officials contri$uted to an environment in which %ournalists who pu$lished articles critical of the government felt threatened n 5a& <' 5inister of Traditional /ndustries and Small =nterprise 8evelopment 8ouglas 8evananda spoke to media personnel regarding the  :orthern "rovincial 6ouncil elections and resettlement in affna(s HS>s and told the assem$led  %ournalists that if the& misinterpreted what he said' he had the power to #crush the necks) of the media and take legal action against their organi,ations;ttacks on the Tamil dail& newspaper Utha&an' which $egan in what appeared to $e concerted fashion in :ovem$er 2012' continued throughout the &ear /n :ovem$er 2012 Utha&an editor T 5ano "remanath was assaulted while tr&ing to record a militar& incursion onto the grounds of affna Universit& The assailants were allegedl& plainclothes arm& soldiers The newspaper(s
 
managing director and Tamil :ational ;lliance 5" = Saravanapavan(s vehicle(s windows were also smashed with cinder $locks while he was meeting with affna Universit& students There were reports that plainclothes militar& officers damaged his car in full view of the militar& and policen anuar& 10' unidentified men on motor$ikes attacked Utha&an distri$utor :ageswaran "iratheepan in affna ;fter $eating him with poles and $reaking his arm' the assailants set fire to "iratheepan(s motor$ike and newspapers n anuar& 1?' alleged arm& intelligence  personnel threw oil on %ournalists from Utha&an as well as the Tamil newspapers Thinakkural and 9alampuri' who were reporting on the 5ovement for =.ual Rights protest of militari,ation in the north and east and to demand the release of affna Universit& students arrested in  :ovem$er 2012 n anuar& 1' the 6/8 summoned Utha&an editor "remananth Thevana&agam for .uestioning a$out an article implicating senior arm& officers in human rights a$uses n !e$ruar& 4' two unidentified men chased an Utha&an deliver& emplo&ee in affna' $ut he escaped without $eing attacked n !e$ruar& 1?' an arm& officer destro&ed the camera of an online Utha&an %ournalist covering a hunger strike $& the residents of 9alikamam in front of the 8urghaiamman temple The officer took the camera when the %ournalist filmed alleged militar& intelligence personnel distur$ing the hunger strikers with the help of ruling  part& political leaders n 5arch 20' a senior militar& officer in civilian clothing threatened an Utha&an staff reporter with $odil& harm for his coverage of a progovernment protest against the U: Human Rights 6ouncil proceedings in +eneva n ;pril 3' seven masked men attacked Utha&an(s @ilinochchi $ranch office in the earl& morning while newspaper $undles were $eing unloaded from a deliver& vehicle The seven men assaulted the staff' including manager ;rumugam "onra%ah' @itinan "iratheepan' @uppusam& 9isvanathan' and 9 Sukirthan' who were admitted to the @ilinochchi hospital' and destro&ed the office(s computers and  photocopier n ;pril 13' three helmeted gunmen entered Utha&an(s main office in affna in the earl& morning and damaged the newspaper(s principal printing machine' rendering it unusa$le The& $urned all the newspapers in the office n ul& 10' three assailants in a three-wheeler knocked Utha&an reporter +unalan 8ileepamuthan off his motor$ike while on his wa& home from the office in Thellipalai The unidentified attackers departed when a third vehicle approached the scene ; week later affna police reported the incident as an #accident) :o further police action occurredThere remained no legal progress regarding the 2011 attack on Utha&an news editor +nanasundaram @uhanathan There was also no progress in the 2011 fire$om$ing of the  premises of pro-opposition news we$site Lanka-e-newsn ;ugust 2' a group of assailants held Sunda& Leader associate editor 5andana ;$e&wickrema hostage at knifepoint for two hours while the& rummaged through her home office ;fter initial investigations' police claimed that the attack was a #common $urglar&) attempt 8a&s later the thieves targeted her house again' this time searching her computer files ;$e&wickrema fled the countr& after the attack and was fired from her %o$ as a result of her a$sence /n 2012 progrovernment owners $ought the Sunda& Leader' once a press freedom stalwart That &ear former Sunda& Leader editor !rederica ans, left the countr&' following intimidation that included a ul& 2012 threat over the telephone from Secretar& of 8efense

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