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Last updated: 11 March, 2010 - Published 18:05 GMT
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Human Rights groups call to end'Witch Hunt'
Journalist in protest
Journalist in protest

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch has Called on the government of Sri Lanka to end its harassment of journalists and activists and take steps against those making threats.

In a joint statement on Thursday the organizations point out that since the January 2010 presidential election, the government has engaged in a campaign to silence and discredit journalists and nongovernmental organizations.

'A recently leaked document, which appears to be a government surveillance list of more than 30 journalists and activists, significantly raises concerns about the safety of the people on the list', the organizations said. 

“The Sri Lankan government is conducting a carefully coordinated witch hunt aimed at discrediting critics of the government,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is extremely dangerous and irresponsible in a country where journalists and activists have often been threatened and killed.”

Amnesty International urges the government of sri Lanka to facilitate a visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the freedom of expression and opinion to visit Sri Lanka for consultations with journalists and the government.

Journalist in Exile

Meanwhile the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists has had a delegation visiting Sri Lanka meeting both reporters and government officials. It says the island’s attorney-general, Mohan Peiris, has declared that the government needs journalists and that he invites those who’ve fled into exile to come back and work in a climate of mutual respect.

Mohan Peiris is quoted as saying that if they come back, “there must be assurance on our part that they won’t come to any harm”.

The government has previously denied victimising media workers. It recently announced that it was holding six army personnel over the murder of a newspaper editor last year.

However, Sri Lanka scores very badly in surveys by journalism rights groups.

Sanath Balasooriya, a journalist in exile said “it’s surprising that a government that has denied any involvement in intimidation and harassment of journalist is now giving those assurances. It’s not clear how they have managed to do this”

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