Sri Lanka Targets Journalists in Smear Campaign
Freedom House condemns the Sri Lankan government's smear campaign, which accused journalists and human rights advocates of being "traitors" for supporting a recent UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution calling for an investigation into the country's past human rights abuses. The campaign, broadcast over state television, accuses journalists of aiding the Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lankan minister Mervyn Silva publicly named individuals and threatened to break their limbs.
Intimidation has been ongoing since January 2012, but escalated after the adoption of the UNHRC resolution on March 22, which called for a credible investigation into atrocities committed during and after Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war. The deliberation and passage sparked anti-US and anti-resolution protests, and led to threats against well-known journalists and human rights defenders both within Sri Lanka and abroad, including Poddala Jayantha, Sunanda Deshapriya, Nimalka Fernando and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu. The Free Media Movement, a local organization, said that some of the individuals identified in prior state broadcasts have been violently attacked.
Sri Lanka is rated Not Free in Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2011 report. Despite nominal constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, journalists have been harassed and accused of treason under antiquated laws that are frequently employed to shield the government from criticism.
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