IFJ Demands Immediate Release of Sri Lankan Editor

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) renews its call for the immediate release of Lanka-e-News news editor Bennett Rupasinghe,

who was arrested in Sri Lanka on March 31.

 

Rupasinghe’s arrest follows an arson

attack on Lanka-e-News which destroyed the website’s

premises in Malabe, near Colombo,

on January 31.

 

The IFJ also holds fears that efforts

may be made to implicate Rupasinghe’s colleagues Shantha Wijesooriya and Sanjaya Dassanayake in

the attack, after state-run media published reports

on the incident which the journalists say are defamatory and false.

 

According to IFJ affiliate the Free

Media Movement (FMM), Rupasinghe,

68, was taken into custody in Wellampitiya after the local officer in charge

called him into the police station.

 

Rupasinghe was questioned for three

hours in regard to phone calls made to and from his mobile phone following the arson

attack. He was then charged on accusations of making threatening phone calls. Rupasinghe

denies all charges.

 

Rupasinghe

was remanded by the Kaduwela Magistrate until April 7 and detained at the

Welikada prison in Colombo.

He suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. The Network of Sri Lanka

journalists and human rights defenders in exile (NfR) reports he has

been prevented from receiving food from home.  

 

A

silent protest outside the court by the Sri Lanka

Alliance of Media Organisations was to be held at Kaduwela Magistrates Court today,

ahead of Rupasinghe’s expected appearance.

 

Since Rupasinghe’s arrest, there are

concerns that Wijesooriya and Dassanayake may be detained on accusations such

as engaging in “unlawful activities”, a vague charge which could see them held

indefinitely under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

 

Both men report they have been followed

on their way to work on several occasions since the arson attack, according to

the FMM.

 

“The IFJ demands authorities conduct

an independent and thorough investigation into the attack on Lanka-e-News and immediately release Bennett Rupasinghe,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director

Jacqueline Park said.

 

“We are also very worried that Wijesooriya

and Dassanayake could be dragged into the case on spurious

grounds under the internationally condemned Prevention of Terrorism

Act.”

 

Several Lanka-e-News journalists have raised concerns

about police investigations into the attack. Two suspects were detained but promptly

released on bail when police said they had no evidence.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents 600,000

journalists in 125 countries

 

Find

the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

Find

the IFJ Asia-Pacific on Facebook here