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‘Sri Lanka Uses Pandemic to Curtail Free Expression’ – HRW

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Following the outbreak of coronavirus on the island, “Sri Lanka’s inspector general has ordered police to arrest those who ‘criticise’ officials involved in the coronavirus response, or share ‘fake’ or ‘malicious’ messages about the pandemic,” writes Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Blanket censorship and threats of arrest for speech not only violate Sri Lanka’s obligations under international human rights law, but are counter-productive,” she added.

“Sri Lankans’ concerns that their rights will be respected are particularly crucial since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has assigned the army chief to lead Sri Lanka’s coronavirus response. Gen. Shavendra Silva, who heads the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak, faces credible allegations of war crimes during the final months of Sri Lanka’s long civil war. Ethnic Tamils, Muslims, and critics of the government, who have long borne the brunt of security force abuses, will be especially concerned that their civil and political rights will not be respected.”

“A failure to uphold the right to freedom of expression during the pandemic undermines basic human rights and could undermine trust in government actions.”

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