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Amnesty International concerned by attacks on journalists and human rights orgs in Sri Lanka

Amnesty International has expressed concern about reports of attacks, harassment and intimidation of human rights organisations as well as media organisations and journalists in Sri Lanka in the period since the Easter Sunday bombings.

“Amnesty International has received reports that the authorities carried out more than a dozen unscheduled visits to human rights and media organisations between May 2019 and January 2020 that were seen as acts of harassment and intimidation. The targets included human rights organisations, and media outlets, who said they were questioned about their activities by members of the Sri Lankan Police, including the Criminal Investigation Department and the Terrorism Investigation Division, as well as State Intelligence.”

In a public statement last week the organisation said:

“At least twelve cases recorded by Amnesty International indicate that the Sri Lanka Police, including the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) also known as Counter-Terrorism and Terrorism investigation Division (CTID), as well as officials with State Intelligence, have visited the premises of, or summoned members of human rights organizations, making enquiries around project activities, donors and funding information, registration, and details of staff members.”

“The reports indicate that such visits have occurred for several months over 2019, spilling into 2020, in different parts of the country including in the Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces on an ad-hoc and arbitrary basis since May, however more systematically particularly in the Western Province since November 2019. This trend of information gathering by different law enforcement agencies serve as a form of harassment and intimidation4, and must be seen in the context of attacks, surveillance and harassment of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) that Amnesty International has documented as having occurred intermittently for several years.5 Such harassment and intimidation has a chilling effect by way of suppressing dissent, creating fear in organizations and individuals defending and promoting human rights about the start of a crackdown, and may amount to reprisals for their work.”

Additionally, referencing reports of searches of media outlets and summons of journalists, including the police questioning of the editor of Vavuniya-based Tamil weekly Thinappuyal, Amnesty said:

“The Police searches and summons of media organizations and journalists, especially in the immediate aftermath of Presidential elections, amount to curtailment of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom11 guaranteed under the ICCPR.”

See here for full statement.