Thursday, April 7, 2011

IFJ Demands Immediate Release of Sri Lankan Editor

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) renews its call for the immediate release of Lanka-e-News news editor Bennett Rupasinghe, who was arrested in Sri Lanka on March 31.
Rupasinghe’s arrest follows an arson attack on Lanka-e-News which destroyed the website’s premises in Malabe, near Colombo, on January 31.

The IFJ also holds fears that efforts may be made to implicate Rupasinghe’s colleagues Shantha Wijesooriya and Sanjaya Dassanayake in the attack, after state-run media published reports on the incident which the journalists say are defamatory and false.

According to IFJ affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM), Rupasinghe, 68, was taken into custody in Wellampitiya after the local officer in charge called him into the police station.

Rupasinghe was questioned for three hours in regard to phone calls made to and from his mobile phone following the arson attack. He was then charged on accusations of making threatening phone calls. Rupasinghe denies all charges.

Rupasinghe was remanded by the Kaduwela Magistrate until April 7 and detained at the Welikada prison in Colombo. He suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. The Network of Sri Lanka journalists and human rights defenders in exile (NfR) reports he has been prevented from receiving food from home. 

A silent protest outside the court by the Sri Lanka Alliance of Media Organisations was to be held at Kaduwela Magistrates Court today, ahead of Rupasinghe’s expected appearance.

Since Rupasinghe’s arrest, there are concerns that Wijesooriya and Dassanayake may be detained on accusations such as engaging in “unlawful activities”, a vague charge which could see them held indefinitely under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Both men report they have been followed on their way to work on several occasions since the arson attack, according to the FMM.

“The IFJ demands authorities conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the attack on Lanka-e-News and immediately release Bennett Rupasinghe,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“We are also very worried that Wijesooriya and Dassanayake could be dragged into the case on spurious grounds under the internationally condemned Prevention of Terrorism Act.”

Several Lanka-e-News journalists have raised concerns about police investigations into the attack. Two suspects were detained but promptly released on bail when police said they had no evidence.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +612 9333 0919      end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            +612 9333 0919      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
The IFJ represents 600,000 journalists in 125 countries
Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific
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