Anti-government newspaper shuttered in Sri Lanka

Colombo: A Sri Lankan anti-government newspaper was shuttered Saturday after its editor was arrested on allegations of publishing details of an ongoing investigation against a former Tamil rebel now in custody, police said.

The Lanka newspaper, published by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (The Peoples Liberation Front), was raided Friday and its editor Chandana Sirimalwatte was arrested Saturday for questioning by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

A police spokesman said Sirimalwatte was detained after the newspaper published details disclosed by Kumaran Pathmandan, the chief arms procurement agent for the Tamil rebels, who were largely defeated by the Sri Lankan military last year.

The newspaper also published other anti-government articles in the lead-up to Sri Lanka’s presidential elections last Tuesday, which incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa won.

The JVP had backed former army chief turned opposition presidential candidate, General Sarath Fonseka.

The paper will remain shuttered until at least Monday, when a court hearing is scheduled.

Meanwhile, a reporter and cartoonist of a news website remain missing after six days.

The journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda of Lanka e-news, has been missing since last Sunday, according to his family members.

Eight other journalists who served in state media institutions have been indicted on allegations that worked for Fonseka, who has in turn been accused for plotting to assassinate Rajapaksa.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it is alarmed by reports that journalists in Sri Lanka have been subjected to government intimidation, arrests, censorship, and harassment in the aftermath of the presidential election.

“We are receiving reports of government retribution against journalists who sided with the opposition in the election.

“Given the ugly history of attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka, we call on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure the safety of all journalists in Sri Lanka, and to use his new mandate to reverse the repressive trends of the past several years,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

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