The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stronglycondemns a court order today to suspend operations of Lanka-e-Newsin Sri Lanka.
The PugodaMagistrate’s court ordered the suspension of online news organisation Lanka-e-News until a contempt caseagainst one of its journalists, Shantha Wijesooriya, is concluded, the Lanka-e-News website reported beforethe suspension took effect.
Wijesooriyawas arrested by Kirindiwala police at the Lanka-e-Newsoffices on April 25 and charged with contempt of court.
The chargeis connected to a report published by Lanka-e-Newson April 19 which said that a Pugoda magistrate was detaining two suspects inbreach of release orders by Sri Lanka’sAttorney-General.
Lanka-e-Newsconceded the report was incorrect. It published two apologies, one of which wasposted on its website on April 22. The news organisation pledged to cooperatefully in the contempt proceedings.
“Complaintsabout media content should be dealt with by Sri Lanka’sPress Complaints Commission rather than by a court and the application of criminallaw against individuals,” IFJ Asia-Pacificsaid.
However, Sri Lanka’sTelecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) was ordered by the PugodaMagistrate’s Court today to suspend the online services of Lanka-e-News. The court also orderedthat Wijesooriya be remanded in custody until May 12.
“Theorder to suspend Lanka-e-Newsafter the news service publicly accepted responsibility for an error and issuedapologies is unnecessarily harsh when international best practice requires thatcomplaints about media content be dealt with as a civil matter by independententities,” IFJ Asia-Pacificsaid.
The IFJ,with its affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM),is deeply worried at the apparent targeting of Lanka-e-Newsin recent times.
The officesof the website were destroyed in an arson attack on January 31. Editor Bennett Rupasinghe was detained at Welikadaprison in Colomboon March 31 before being released on bail on April 7, and denies accusations ofmaking threatening calls to a suspect in the arson attack. Cartoonist andcolumnist Prageeth Eknaligoda disappeared on January 24, 2010. His whereaboutsremain unknown.
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