Monday, December 6, 2010

Another violation of media freedom in Sri Lanka - 24 arrested for pasting posters

NfR expresses its strongest condemnation of  new form of censorship being practicd  in Sri Lanka.  by  the imposition of a ban on posters and the arrest of those pasting them.  According to a  report released  by The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) in Sri Lanka,  24 persons have been arrested  for pasting posters during the last few months.   Almost all  posters so banned by the police, are critical of the government and relate to  rights of the students, workers and medical professionals.
On top of this,  in the Colombo public notice boards have been reduced to a minimum and putting up political bill boards have been effectively banned. 

Public display of posters is an age old tradition of free expression all over the world and the people of Sri Lanka have enjoyed this right until now,  even under emergency rule. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has assured the  right to paste posters,  time and again during last few decades. As recently as on  4th October, this year the Supreme Court   directed the Attorney General to order the Police Chief to stop taking any action under Emergency Regulations in cases involving the pasting of posters. There is no law in Sri Lanka that prohibits pasting of  posters.

Intimidating and  arresting  persons pasting posters has  become a common occurrence in recent times.  It as a method of suppressing criticism and dissenting opinion.  As the CHR has stated ' There are no legal provisions preventing anyone from printing, distributing or pasting posters but in the recent months many arrests were made under the outdated section 120 of the Penal Code that deals with treason and unrelated sections of the National Thoroughfares Act and National Environment Act.’ 

In a situation where the mainstream media is under an unprecedented pressure  to practice self censorship of critical and dissenting opinions,  posters and hand bills play a vital role in the exercise of  the peoples right to information..  Banning posters and hand bills by arbitrary police action constitutes a serious violation of  the peoples' right to know.

NfR considers this new development as a dangerous trend not only for the peoples' rights to know but also to democratic governance. This again shows that the current regime has no genuine intention of improving media freedom  and its only concern is to control free dissemination of ideas and opinions in Sri Lanka.

Issued by
Executive committee
NfR – Sri Lanka
C/O, 19447, Victory Blvd,#2, Reseda,CA 91335, USA            

Steering committee : Iqbal MCM ( The Netherlands),Kshama Ranawana ( Canada) Lionel Bopage ( Australia), Nadarasa Sarawanan (Norway), Nadarajah Kuruparan(UK) Padmi Liyanage (Germany), Raveendran Pradeepan (France), Rudhramoorthy Cheran (Canada), Saman Wagaarachchi ( USA), Sunanda Deshapriya ( Switzerland)

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