The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes
the release of Chandana Sirimalwatte, editor of the Sinhala newspaper Lanka, on February 16 after 18 days in
detention without charge.
IFJ sources, Sirimalwatte’s unconditional release was ordered by a magistrate’s
court after the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Sri Lankan police
failed to present charges against him.
was taken into custody on January 29, two days after incumbent president Mahinda
Rajapaksa was declared re-elected to a second term in office.
Lanka is aligned with a political party that had
strongly backed the rival candidate.
editor’s detention, the premises of Lanka were sealed by police without
warrant or explanation. The office was unsealed by order of a magistrate’s
court on February 2. Sirimalwatte continued to be detained despite protests by Sri Lanka’s
journalists and international expressions of concern.
“The IFJ is
pleased that Sri Lanka’s
judiciary has upheld the rule of law and ordered the release of a journalist
whose arrest smacked of political vendetta,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
15, Sirimalwatte filed a petition in Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court under the
fundamental rights clauses of the Constitution, challenging his detention
without charge. As publisher of Lanka, he also filed a petition
questioning the sealing of office on January 29.
earlier cases when fundamental rights petitions questioning the arbitrary
arrest and detention of journalists have been withdrawn in exchange for their
freedom, we hope that these petitions will be heard and authoritatively decided
by the Supreme Court,” White said.
that the judiciary will in the process establish a strong norm against the
detention, harassment and mistreatment of journalists pursuing their
meanwhile continues to be concerned for the welfare of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a
senior journalist and political commentator who has been missing since January
“The IFJ urges
the Sri Lankan authorities to disclose all information they have about Prageeth
Eknaligoda and immediately step up efforts to find him,” White said.
The IFJ further
calls on power-holders in Sri
Lanka to clarify the circumstances in which
the Information and Mass Media ministerial portfolio was taken over by the President
a few days back. There are reports that the President has advised the
Inspector-General of Police that all legal proceedings against journalists
should have his prior concurrence before being initiated.
respect to the office of the President, the IFJ strongly advises that regulation
of the media is best left to professional and apolitical bodies that are
committed to the basic norms and values of ethical journalism,” White said.
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries