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Protesters say state secrecy must end

Government told to open up on how it spends public funds

Protesters gather in Chilaw to denounce the state's lack of fiscal transparency Protesters gather in Chilaw to denounce the state's lack of fiscal transparency
  • ucanews.com reporter, Chilaw
  • Sri Lanka
  • August 13, 2012
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Demonstrators rallied at the weekend to protest against the government's lack of transparency,  especially in matters of fiscal accountability, and undue restrictions on media reporting.

Protesters including members of the media along with Buddhist and Christian leaders, gathered in Chilaw, northwest of the capital Colombo. The protest was organized by the Puttalam District Journalist Association.

“The public want to know why the government hides information. They have a right to ask for the facts because people pay taxes to support the government,” said Prasad Purnimal, the Association's secretary and a local BBC correspondent.

“Many a time journalists have been knocked back when they inquire about the misuse of public funds and corruption in government offices,” he said.

He added that recently a hospital director banned journalists from his hospital after a group of reporters turned up to conduct interviews about the purchase of medical equipment.

Activists are also concerned about a recent escalation of violence and threats against journalists.

Fourteen journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006, according to Amnesty International.

Sri Lanka ranked 163rd out of 178 countries in the 2011 Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. This marks a drop from 158th in 2010.

At the rally, Venerable Badiwewa Diyasena Thero, chief monk at Kandakkuliya temple, said restrictions on the right to information allows corruption and illegal activities to thrive.

“Journalists face many challenges when they discover the truth. There are growing reports of terrible incidents and media workers live in fear for their lives and independence,” he said.

“As religious leaders we cannot just stay in our temples when the truth has been hidden.”

Charitha Herath, a secretary at the Ministry of Media and Information, recently cited threats to national security if the general public knew what the government had done in the past, was doing now or was planning to do in the future.

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