Press Statement

Sri Lanka: Journalist detained for giving information to Indian Embassy

25 Aug, 2021

A web journalist has been detained for allegedly giving information to the Indian Embassy in Colombo.

A media organisations collective said that Lanka e-News journalist Keerthi Ratnayake had been arrested and had been detained for 90 days.

“The editorial board of the Lanka e-News website has informed us of the arrest and detention of Keerthi Ratnayake, a journalist of their website, on a 90-day detention order for providing certain information to the Indian Embassy,” the media organisations collective said.

The media organisations collective, which includes the Free Media Movement and Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, have written to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana Wickramaratne raising concerns over the arrest.

“We, as a Media Organisations Collective would request that the arrested journalist be investigated under the prescribed legal provisions and that his life be protected against all harm. This is based on the expressed concerns of the e-News editorial board that the life of the journalist could be in danger while the Police are investigating sources and information regarding the website, going beyond the reason for his arrest,” the letter said.

The Media Organisations Collective also noted that journalists have professional accountability and a tradition of not disclosing or divulging sources that provide them with information other than the sources relevant to an incident in a judicial process.

“Therefore, we request that accurate information pertaining to the Keerthi Ratnayake incident be publicized and that all actions be in compliance with the due legal provisions,” the Media Organisations Collective said.

The Media Organisations Collective also noted that a large group of police officers had searched the house of social media activist Thushara Wanniarachchi recently.

A group of unidentified people claiming to be from the CID had also tried to enter the residence of R. Sivarajah, the editor of the Thamilan newspaper. Meanwhile, a journalist from Batticaloa was also interrogated.

“We are concerned about the background of these recent events and reiterate that it is always advisable to provide definite information to the public. We call on you to guarantee that investigations against journalists will be within the due legal provisions at all times since actions that lead to intimidation and threaten journalists could hamper their freedom and restrict their professional work,” the Media Organisations Collective said.

The Media Organisations Collective called on the IGP to ensure that specific reasons for the arrest of journalists be made public at all times.