Media organizations call for the safety and fair treatment of journalists under investigation
Participants hold candles and placards during a vigil to pay tribute to journalists killed while doing their jobs in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in January 2020. (Photo: AFP)
Sri Lankan media organizations have called on police authorities to guarantee that all investigations against journalists are conducted within legal provisions at all times.
They expressed particular concern for the safety of Keerthi Ratnayake, a defense and political analyst at Lanka e-News, who has been arrested and detained for 90 days.
The journalist consistently reported on the presence of Chinese troops in the island nation and had warned that the Indian embassy in Colombo was at risk of attack from Taliban extremists working in league with the Chinese government.
Seetha Ranjanee, convener of the Free Media Movement (FMM), said they met the inspector general of police on Aug. 24 and demanded that the arrested journalist be investigated under the prescribed legal provisions and his life protected against all harm.
Ranjanee said the Lanka e-News editorial board was concerned that the life of their journalist could be in danger.
“We request that accurate information pertaining to Ratnayake’s arrest be publicized. We also call on you to ensure that specific reasons for the arrest of journalists be made public at all times,” FMM said in a letter to police authorities.
What the government should do is arrest the masterminds behind the Easter bombings, not harass those who stand for justice like Gamage
The letter was also signed by the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union, Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Tamil Media Alliance and Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association.
The media organizations pointed out that intimidation and threats to journalists hamper their freedom and restrict their professional work.
Thushara Wanniarachchi, a social media activist, said police officers had searched her house recently while unidentified people claiming to be from the criminal investigation department had tried to enter the residence of R. Sivarajah, the editor of Thamilan newspaper.
Punyamoorthy Sasikaran, a Tamil journalist in the Eastern Province, has been harassed for over two months. He was summoned to a special criminal investigation unit in Batticaloa on Aug. 23. The police had also recorded the personal details of his family members and warned them to be careful, he said.
Shehan Malaka Gamage, a young rights activist who raised his voice on behalf of the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks, is being investigated after he, along with Catholic clergy and lay leaders, held a press conference on Aug. 17.
“What the government should do is arrest the masterminds behind the Easter bombings, not harass those who stand for justice like Gamage,” said a Catholic priest who wanted to remain anonymous.
Gamage remains resolute in his quest for justice. “The battle will not be abandoned whatever the obstacles. We will continue our struggle until justice is done to the Easter Sunday attack victims,” he said in a social media post.
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