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A protest was staged in front of the United Nations Office in Sri Lanka against the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) issuing summons to journalist Tharindu Uduwaragedera.

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Tharindu Uduwaragedara, a journalist, media activist and human rights activist, has been summoned to appear before the CID on 28 June 2022. The Free Media Movement, considers this as an extension of the ongoing anti-democratic movement implemented through the CID to crack down on media activists and free-thinking activists, and vehemently opposes and strongly condemns these actions.

When conducting further inquiries regarding this summons, it was reported that the summons has been made in connection with a complaint lodged by the Air Force Intelligence regarding an investigation on a YouTube channel called ‘Satahana’ maintained by Tharindu. No specific news item was indicated on the complaint, while the majority of the videos posted on the channel were reported to be under investigation stating that there was a discrepancy between their content and the headlines used.

It is clear from the explanations provided that this is an arbitrary investigation carried out without any basic understanding of journalism. Special units such as the ‘Criminal Investigation Department’ are operated at the expense of public funds in a country, not for such ridiculous purposes but for serious criminal investigations that require specific expertise. Over the past 18 months, the Free Media Movement has continued to monitor activities against journalists, social activists and citizens who have exercised their right to freedom of expression of police units, including the Criminal Investigation Department and the Terrorism Investigation Unit (TID),. It has been clear that most of these actions against journalists have been without any justifiable reason and a clear violation of media freedom and their fundamental right to freedom of expression. It needs to be stated specifically, that these divisions failed to provide clear evidence even in the few instances in which legal action was initiated. The case against the poet Ahnaf Jazeem is the closest example of an incident that has brought disrepute to Sri even internationally.

In the past two months, activists of the public agitation against the President and the current government, as well as several journalists and social media activists who have been active contributors, have been summoned to the CID for questioning, and even lawyers representing the rights of the protesters have been questioned. The Free Media Movement has repeatedly pointed out that this seriously threatens freedom of expression, including media freedom of journalists.

At a time when international assistance is essential to save Sri Lanka from its unfortunate situation, the violation of fundamental rights by the CID is a serious matter.

Therefore, we urge the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Security, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, the Inspector General of Police and other authorities to immediately stop this arbitrary action of the CID of summoning and interrogating those who use their freedom of expression through the media or any other medium. (newswire)

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