New York, July 4 (IANS) Sri Lanka should immediately end harassment of media outlets and journalists, Human Rights Watch has said.
In the three years since the end of the armed conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government has expanded its efforts to silence critical views, it said Tuesday.
On June 29, the Criminal Investigation Department, acting on a court order, raided the offices of the Sri Lanka Mirror, a news website, and Sri Lanka X News, a website of the opposition United National Party.
The authorities confiscated computers and documents, and arrested nine people on the grounds that the websites were "propagating false and unethical news on Sri Lanka".
"The government raids did not just target two media outlets but were part of a broader effort to intimidate and harass all critical journalists," said Human Rights Watch.
"Sri Lanka's poor reputation on free speech will only sink lower unless these assaults on the media stop immediately."
Harassment of media outlets has taken various forms, it said.
On June 26, a Tamil-language website, Tamilwin, was temporarily blocked by two internet service providers in the country.
Tamilwin had reported on opposition-led protests in northern Sri Lanka against alleged land grabs by the military.
In November 2011 the government blocked five websites, including the Sri Lanka Mirror, and introduced a requirement that all websites dealing with national affairs must register or face legal action.
During the three-decade-long war between the government and the LTTE, journalists were frequently the targets of attack by both sides.
Three years since the conflict ended in May 2009, the government continues to intimidate and threaten journalists and news organisations that express dissenting views, Human Rights Watch said.
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