US expresses concern over raid on website office


The United States yesterday reiterated its concern over what it called “the blocking of news websites, intimidation and disappearance of journalists”.

Its response came in the wake of the Criminal Investigations Department’s raid on the office of the Sri Lanka Mirror and Lanka X news. The US embassy said it was closely following the case, including the arrest of nine individuals.
An embassy statement said:

“The United States believes that an uncensored and independent media available to all citizens is an indispensable part of any vibrant democracy and we call for an end to the harassment of these and all other journalists.”
Colombo Additional Magistrate Kosala Senadheera, in the meantime, yesterday, released on police bail eight suspects who are alleged to have defamed the President.

The CID produced the suspects who had been arrested on Friday evening. A detective said the suspects had violated Section 118 of the Penal Code dealing with the publication of articles defamatory of the President and Section 120 of the Penal Code that caused public disaffection of the President and higher authorities.

Counsel Saliya Pieris with Upul Kumarapperuma appearing for the suspects told court that Section 118 of the Penal Code had been repealed by  Act No. 12 of 2002 ten years ago. Hence, the counsel told court the suspects could not be arrested under that provision of the law and sought their release on bail.

The court asked the CID whether there had been a public outcry in respect of the websites. The CID replied there was no such public outcry as yet.On Friday, more than 20 CID officers raided the offices of Sri Lanka Mirror and Lanka X news located at Ethulkotte, arrested nine persons and seized computers and documents. However later one person was released as she was the teamaker for the staff.

“It is an undemocratic move to raid the website office as no offence had been committed,” UNP Communications Chief Mangala Samaraweera told the Sunday Times.

Meanwhile, the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) in a statement claimed that the two websites had continuously published false information targeting prominent people, with the objective of ”misguiding the general public.”

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