Sri Lanka bans NGO news conferences

Government says NGOs can no longer hold press conferences or train journalists, in move criticised as "unconstitutional"

     Sri Lanka's military has been accused of excessive interference in civil matters [Al Jazeera]
    Sri Lanka's military has been accused of excessive interference in civil matters [Al Jazeera]

    Sri Lanka has banned civil activist groups from holding news conferences and training for journalists, with the organisations rejecting the move as unconstitutional.

    JC Weliamuna, a lawyer from the Civil Society Collective, an umbrella organisation, said on Wednesday that the defence ministry's order was "absolutely unconstitutional" and violated the public's rights of freedom of association and expression.

    He called it a "continuation of threats on civil society."

    A defence and urban development ministry notice dated July 1 ordered nongovernmental organisations to desist from conducting "press conferences, workshops, training for journalists and dissemination of press releases," saying such acts are "unauthorised" and "beyond their mandate."

    Groups received the notice on Monday, and the Associated Press news agency saw it on Wednesday.

    Weliamuna told reporters that the directive was not based on any legal provision.

    "This is a directive of some public servant and no one is bound by this," he said.

    Sudarshana Gunawardana, also from the collective, said, "We reject this announcement. It's an illegal document made going beyond the mandate and hence we challenge it."

    US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement that the "order undermines Sri Lanka's longstanding and proud democratic traditions, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly."

    Last month, corruption watchdog Transparency International Sri Lanka accused the government of disrupting the group's training programme for journalists from the country's former civil war zone, accusing participants of being agents for the defeated Tamil Tiger separatists.

    The training on corruption-related investigative reporting was for ethnic Tamil journalists from the country's north and east.

    The journalists, however, were evicted from two training venues, Transparency International said, adding that the participants were also forced out of their hotel at night.

    The defecse ministry rejected the allegation of disrupting the training. Sri Lanka's military has been accused of excessive interference in civil matters since the country's quarter-century civil war ended five years ago.

    SOURCE: AP


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Meet the deported nurse aiding asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

    Meet the deported nurse helping refugees at the border

    Francisco 'Panchito' Olachea drives a beat-up ambulance around Nogales, taking care of those trying to get to the US.

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    The rise of Pakistan's 'burger' generation

    How a homegrown burger joint pioneered a food revolution and decades later gave a young, politicised class its identity.

    'We will cut your throats': The anatomy of Greece's lynch mobs

    The brutality of Greece's racist lynch mobs

    With anti-migrant violence hitting a fever pitch, victims ask why Greek authorities have carried out so few arrests.