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Sri Lanka's Genocidal War - '95 to '01
Article 19 in a Press Release dated 15 May 2000 declared:
"The Sri Lankan government unreasonably extended the already excessive restrictions on freedom of expression on 4 May 2000, effectively placing the country on a war footing. The authorities claim that extending reporting restrictions will help to resolve the countrys conflict crisis. ARTICLE 19 believes that years of censorship have not had that effect and that increasing restrictions at this time is more likely to exacerbate tension.
ARTICLE 19 calls for the immediate repeal of the wartime censorship regulations which open up the possibility of abuse for political ends and put Sri Lanka in further breach of her international obligations. It is only through an open process of dialogue, based on the publics right to know and the free flow of information and ideas, that lasting solutions can be achieved.
The governments new controls extend the considerable restrictions already placed on the media, traditionally justified by reference to national security. The government now has the overriding power to ban newspapers and close down printing presses, as well as to implement a sweeping regime of prior censorship over material touching on security issues.
ARTICLE 19 has consistently opposed the excessive restrictions on freedom of expression in Sri Lanka, particularly in the form of prior restraint, which international regulations restrict to only the most drastic circumstances. The restrictions have been consistently applied over the years, and have been clearly in evidence during the recent military developments taking place in the North.
Both current legislation and the new restrictions breach international guarantees of freedom of expression, which only permit restrictions on the basis of national security under narrowly defined circumstances. International principles stipulate that with regard to national security, restrictions should only be imposed by courts and not, as with the current regulations, by administrative bodies subject to Government control."
Notes to Editors: - the new controls were legislated by issue of a special Gazette notification in accordance with Chapter 40 of the Public Security Ordinance.