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Police interrogate two newspaper editors about their sources

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders regards police investigations of two newspaper editors in the past few days as flagrant press freedom violations. Officers from the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) questioned the two journalists, both editors of Sinhalese dailies, in an attempt to force them to reveal their sources for articles on sensitive subjects.

"The protection of sources is essential for journalists to be able to work properly and we urge the Sri Lankan authorities to respect this principle," Reporters Without Borders said. "In its present situation, Sri Lanka needs a press that is not subject to obstruction and is not under a permanent threat of summonses, interrogations or searches."

The editor of one of the newspapers, who asked not to be named, said that members of the CCD went to his newspaper's headquarters on the morning of 16 June 2009 and questioned him for several hours about a story in that day's issue claiming that 30 would-be suicide bombers were believed to be at large in Colombo. The police pressured him to identify the military sources cited in the article.

The same day, members of the CCD went to the headquarters of the "Lanka" newspaper at about 5:00 p.m. (local time) and asked the editor, Chandana Sirimalwatte, to come to CCD headquarters the next day, where he was questioned under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was also asked to name sources.

Sirimalwatte had already been interrogated on 15 June about a front-page story in the newspaper's Sunday version, "Lanka Irida Sangrahaya", claiming that houses built for "war heroes" with money raised by the government by means of public donations and special taxes had been sold to soldiers instead of given to them, as was originally intended.

Bennet Rupasinghe of the online newspaper and another journalist who works for the website were questioned by police earlier this month about a physical attack on a colleague, Poddala Jayantha.

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