Sri Lankan authorities ban Lanka eNews

New York, April 28, 2011Sri Lankan authorities should immediately rescind the temporary suspension of pro-opposition news website Lanka eNews, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The ban is the latest in a series of attacks against the website.

A Pugoda magistrate’s court ordered the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to suspend Lanka eNews within Sri Lanka while it tries the site’s detained journalist Shantha Wijeysooria for contempt of court, according to local and international news reports. Wijeysooria was detained Monday and remanded into custody during a hearing today until May 12, the reports said. The charge, which related to an article about a magistrate of the court, Aravinda Perera, was upheld despite the website’s apology for publishing it, according to the reports. The website said it would appeal the decision.

CPJ has called on the United Nations and the diplomatic community to intervene and investigate the apparent targeting of the website. 

“We call on the appeals court to overturn this order and allow Lanka eNews to continue to publish in Sri Lanka” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “This suspension is the Sri Lankan authorities’ latest effort to silence an independent news outlet.”

Lanka eNews editor Sandaruwan Senadheera fled Sri Lanka in 2010 after receiving threats during presidential elections. Two days before the elections took place, the site’s columnist and cartoonist  Prageeth Eknelygoda was abducted; his whereabouts are still unknown.

News Editor Bennet Rupasinghe was arrested March 31 for allegedly threatening another man, and the website’s Colombo offices were targeted by an apparent arson attack in January, according to CPJ research.

Sri Lanka appeared fourth on CPJ’s 2010 Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. It calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.