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Colombo accuses Amnesty of bias

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 16 March 2010 12:26 No Comment]

Responding to Amnesty International’s media release that a leaked list in Colombo "reveal[ing] the names of 35 leading journalists and NGO officers of interest to the country’s secret services," was "believed to be compiled by the Sri Lanka Intelligence Unit," Sri Lanka’s Defence Spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, said that "gross allegations were being made against the [Sri Lanka] government, and organizations such as AI were continuing this trend," and "accused AI of being biased despite the [Sri Lanka] government having discussions with them in the past."

Amnesty in the release further said, "[t]he list then grades each of them [the 35 journalists and NGO officers] according to their importance to the intelligence services," and added that "Amnesty International fears that the leak was a deliberate move by the government to intimidate and harass journalists in the country."

The release quoted Mike Blakemore, Media Director of Amnesty International UK, as saying, “[j]ournalists are often at the forefront of protecting and defending individuals’ human rights. It is their bravery that can help expose abuses and bring them to an end.

“Sri Lanka needs to respect media freedom and allow human rights defenders to go about their work freely and without harassment,” the Amnesty press release added.

Mr Rambukwella rebuked, “Sri Lanka has been a country which has defeated terrorism. Because we had the power to do it, some organizations have been badly hurt by this and AI may be one of them. If they have the hit list, we challenge them to prove it,” according to Colombo media.

Earlier, Executive directors of two NGOs, the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a Colombo-based think tank, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, and Transparency International, Sri Lanka (TISL), Weliamuna wrote a protest letter to Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse complaining about a news report in a Colombo website which said that "[Sri Lanka] state intelligence agencies have been compiling a list or lists of individuals supportive of the opposition," and that "there are reasonable grounds for fear about the physical liberty and safety of the individuals concerned."

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