COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s main opposition on Sunday vowed to resist a police crackdown against its news website after the United States asked the government to stop “harassing” journalists in the island.
Opposition United National Party lawmaker Mangala Samaraweera said police tried to silence their Sri Lanka X News website (srilankaxnews.com) by seizing computer equipment on Friday, but that it would resume publishing shortly.
“They have taken away all our computers, but that does not mean they can shut us down,” Samaraweera told reporters in Colombo. “We will continue to expose this corrupt regime.”
Nine employees arrested by police were freed on bail Saturday after a magistrate noted that the provisions of the law used to detain them were repealed in 2002.
“This was a politically motivated raid,” said Samaraweera.
The United States on Saturday joined rights groups in demanding that Sri Lanka stop targeting media organizations and said it was closely following action against of opposition websites.
Srilankaxnews.com and another pro-opposition site, srilankamirror.com, have been critical of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government, which is facing international censure over its human rights record amid a string of unsolved murders and attacks on independent journalists.
The defense ministry has said it obtained a court order to carry out Friday’s raid because the websites were carrying “false and vulgar reports”.
Some 17 journalists and media employees have been killed in Sri Lanka in the past decade, pro-opposition websites have been blocked and media organisations opposing government views have been attacked, according to rights groups.— AFP