Sri Lankan police raid offices of two news websites

New York, June 29, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Sri Lanka to immediately stop harassing news outlets. Police in Colombo raided the offices of two opposition news websites today, arresting nine people and confiscating equipment, according to news reports.

Authorities did not disclose the reason for the raid on the Sri Lanka Mirror and the Sri Lanka X News, both of which are based in the capital. News reports said that most of the nine arrested were journalists, but it is not clear who they were or why they were detained. Police also confiscated some computers and phones from the offices, news reports said.

“Friday’s raid shows that President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government remains determined to silence opposition voices,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Authorities should heed the many public appeals urging them to reverse this years-long policy of quashing media criticism of the government and military.”

At least five websites, including the Sri Lanka Mirror, had been temporarily blocked in November, news reports said. The BBC reported that they had been shut down for maligning top government officials, including engaging in “character assassination” of Rajapaksa.

Sri Lanka is one of the most repressive nations for the press, according to CPJ research. In addition to ongoing censorship, CPJ has documented a climate of intense intimidation and violence against critical opposition journalists. At least 23 Sri Lankan journalists have gone into exile, fearing retaliation, CPJ research shows. The country ranks fourth in the world in combating anti-press violence, according to CPJ’s global Impunity Index.