Pro-JVP newspaper ‘Lanka’ banned

World media groups express grave concern

The pro-Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) newspaper Lanka was sealed by CID detectives yesterday – while world media rights groups expressed alarm over attacks on journalists and the free media after the presidential election.

Armed with a court order, the detectives turned up at the Lanka editorial office at Delkanda in Nugegoda last evening to seal the premises. This means the newspaper will not be published until this clamp down is withdrawn.

CID officers leaving the Lanka newspaper office after they sealed it.

The sealing came a day after Lanka Editor Chandana Sirimalwatte was arrested by the CID. He was questioned by detectives and is to be produced before the Gangodawila Magistrate tomorrow. Mr. Sirimalwatte was questioned about articles published in the newspaper.

He had also been questioned twice last year on reports relating to the construction of a Deniyaya mansion for a VIP. A spokesperson for the newspaper said that detectives on Friday had sought information on the Lanka circulation but they refused to comply saying it was not relevant to the investigations.

Meanwhile, reporter and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda who works for still remains missing a week after he failed to return home from work. His family has had no word from him and the police are yet to come up with any clues to his whereabouts.

In separate incidents Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation programme producer Ravi Abeywickrema is reported to have been attacked by a senior station officer for criticizing the election coverage by the state TV channel, while soldiers are alleged to have roughed up foreign media personnel who had attended a news conference given by defeated presidential candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka.

In another attack on the free media, a powerful minister is alleged to have threatened the Jaffna-based Tamil daily Uthayan with unspecified reprisals while Swiss Public Radio journalist Karin Wenger was deported for allegedly asking embarrassing questions at a news conference given by senior ministers.
The house of Lake House regional correspondent Gunaratne Liyanaarachchi was smashed up by a mob on the day after the election. In a complaint to police the correspondent had blamed the attacks on government supporters.

The Paris-based media rights group Reporters Sans Borders (RSF) has called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to put a stop to arrests and intimidation of journalists working for privately-owned and foreign media.

“It is quite normal for journalists and privately-owned media to side with a candidate before and during a democratic election but it is unacceptable for them to be the victims of reprisals once the elections are over,” the media rights group said.

The RSF also reminded the President of the assurances he had given on media freedom. The New York based Committee to Protect Journalists said yesterday it was alarmed by reports that journalists in Sri Lanka were being subjected to government intimidation, arrests, censorship, and harassment in the aftermath of this week’s presidential election.

“We are receiving reports of government retribution against journalists who sided with the opposition in the election. Given the ugly history of attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka, we call on President Mahina Rajapaksa to ensure the safety of all journalists in Sri Lanka, and to use his new mandate to reverse the repressive trends of the past several years,” CPJs Asia programme coordinator Bob Dietz said.

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