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US raises concerns over intimidation

2014 Jul 30

The United States says it is deeply concerned by the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of a journalism training session in Colombo over the weekend.

The eventual cancellation of this training, which was focused on digital security for Jaffna-based journalists and financially supported by the U.S. government, was accompanied by a series of threats and intimidation of training participants and other journalists around the country, including threats against at least one journalist who made a statement criticizing the government over the cancellation, the US Embassy in Colombo said.

“This marks the third training session to be canceled in Sri Lanka since May, including others that were disrupted by well-organized protestors threatening harm to the training participants. Even when present, the police have not provided security for threatened journalists or taken action against the groups making the threats,” the Embassy said.

Separately, the US Embassy said it is also gravely concerned about threats and intimidation by security forces against journalists covering the July 25 Jaffna court proceedings related to an 11-year-old victim of sexual abuse, allegedly at the hands of Sri Lankan Navy personnel from the Karainagar Naval Base.

“These events continue a troubling pattern of impunity for those who interfere with both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Sri Lanka,” the Embassy said.

The US Embassy added that it has raised its concerns with the Government of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, and strongly urged the Government to take immediate steps to ensure the protection of fundamental rights for journalists and for all Sri Lankans.

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