Media Executive Held Under Anti-Terror Laws as Parameshawary Nears 100 Days Detention

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has again slammed the Sri Lankan authorities for using controversial anti-terror legislation to silence critical voices, after a media executive was arrested on February 26.

According to local reports, Dushantha Basnayake, financial director of Standard Newspapers Private Limited, which publishes the Sinhalese-language weekly Mawbima, became the second person affiliated with the publication to be detained under the new laws.

Mawbima journalist Munusamy Parameshawary, 23, has been detained without charge by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) since November 22, 2006.

“We once again stress our concerns that the Terrorism Prevention laws are being used to oppress the media and silence vital independent voices,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

According to local reports, Basnayake, 40, was questioned by the TID at his office for approximately four hours prior to being placed under arrest.

Mawimba has a reputation for publishing critical articles on the government and has reportedly refused to bow to intimidation tactics, including taxation investigations, aimed at changing its editorial stance.

“We hold grave fears that Basnayke’s arrest will emulate Parameshawary’s, who on March 3, despite no charges being laid against her, will have spent 100 days in detention,” said the president of the IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries.

Journalists’ organisations from around the world wrote to the Sri Lankan government on January 31 as part of a campaign led by IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement, which called for Parameshawary’s release.

“Basnayke’s arrest sends a strong message to the international community that the Sri Lankan authorities are abusing the anti-terror laws in an attempt to quash criticism.”

“The IFJ again calls on the Sri Lankan government to make a stand for human rights and press freedom by securing the immediate release of Basnayake and Parameshawary, and ensure that the young journalist does not spend her 100th night behind bars.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries