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CPJ and CJA calls for accountability over attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) alongside Centre for Justice and Accountability (CJA) has issued a report calling calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council to hold Sri Lanka accountable for crimes committed against journalists.

Their report highlights that under the Rajapaksa’s previous administration there were targeted campaigns against journalists with “white van commandos,” kidnapping and murder journalists. The report highlights the involvement of former Defence Secretary and current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as well as the “Tripoli Platoon,” a unit within the Military Intelligence Division that surveilled and attacked journalists. In December 2019, Rajapaksa denied involvement in the thousands of abductions, decrying the allegations as "bogus".

Attacks associated with the Tripoli Platoon include the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga, the abduction of Keith Noyahr, the assault on Upali Tennakoon, and the disappearance of Prageeth Eknelygoda. 

The report further details increased attacks on journalists since Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected to office. Despite multiple promises made by the government, these horrific incidents under either presidency have failed to result in accountability.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has recommended passing a new resolution that establishes a mechanism to collect and preserve evidence to support future accountability processes, enhanced monitoring of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and supporting civil society initiatives.

Recommendations have been made to the Government of Sri Lanka as well, including the immediate cessation of harassment against journalists, investigation into prior crimes against journalists and the resumption of stalled investigations, the release of former CID Director Shani Abeysekera who was overseeing an investigation into violence against journalists before he was wrongfully detained, and repealing legislation criminalizing criticism of the government.

Read the full report here

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