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RSF says harassment of journalists surge under new Govt

International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) “shared the concerns” of Sri Lankan journalists yesterday about searches, interrogations and acts of intimidation that have allegedly taken place since the swearing-in of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as President.

The authorities must put a stop to all forms of intimidation, RSF said in a statement published on its website.

Pointing to a raid conducted on the website newshub.lk under questionable circumstances and other alleged acts of intimidation on journalists, RSF noted that it took “little more than a week” for the new presidency to have an impact on press freedom in Sri Lanka.

“The warrant produced by the police [which raided newshub.lk] had expired on 12 December 2018, nearly a year ago, but the police brushed that aside, blaming a typing error, and continued to use the searchword ‘Gota’ on all of the website’s computers to find and examine references to Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” RSF said in its statement.

“This full-blown police raid on an independent news portal, compounded by a crude breach of criminal procedure, sends a very disturbing signal about respect for press freedom under Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” the statement quoted RSF Asia-Pacific desk head Daniel Bastard as saying.

Bastard urged the new government to issue clear directives to the police to let journalists do their work without subjecting them to intimidation.

Sri Lanka is ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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