Sri Lanka mis-using UN-backed ICCPR law to suppress media, journalists: rights group

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Free Media Movement has condemned the use of a UN backed ICCPR law to suppress media, journalists and free expression and called on all stakeholders to intervene.

Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movements, a media rights group said police organized crime division is trying to prosecute Kusal Perera, a senior journalist who wrote a column in Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror newspaper over recent anti-Muslim violence.

"Kusal Perera, has been engaged in journalism for a long time in both the Sinhala and English media and has been recognized as a socially responsible professional journalist both locally and internationally," the Free Media Movement said in a statement.

"The Free media Movement points out that this effort by the Police is a serious threat to the freedom of expression and media and the pursuance of legal action under the ICCPR Act which includes provision to disallow bail, based on a complaint of an individual regarding the article published by a veteran journalist in a recognized print media, is a dangerous precedent.

"The Free Media Movement urges all relevant stakeholders to intervene in averting this situation and for everyone who respect human rights to come forward to defeat such actions against theFreedom of expression and media freedoms.

The call from the free media movement on the selective implementation of law comes as Sri Lanka is planning a controversial new law on ‘fake news’ with criminal prosecution of ‘lying’.

It is not clear who will be the ‘arbiter’ on news that is fake.

Legislators have already voiced concern that the ICCPR law is being used against Muslim women for wearing apparel.

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Sri Lanka does not have a religious police, but the UN-backed law has given teeth for a de facto religious police activity, critics say. (Colombo/June16/2019)