14 July, 2020

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End Persecution Of Dharisha Bastians: Rights Groups Tell Government

Several international human rights groups have called on the Sri Lankan Government to end its persecution of journalist Dharisha Bastians, calling her a woman human right defender whose work had focused extensively on human rights, militarization, corruption, religious freedom, democracy, and political rights in Sri Lanka.

Dharisha Bastians

In a strongly worded statement issued today (24) Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Front Line Defenders and Human Rights Watch called on the Government to stop targeting and harrassing Bastians and urged Sri Lanka to ensure her safety and that of her family.

The rights groups and media watchdogs said Bastians was being targeted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in its investigation into what the Sri Lankan government maintains is a false claim of abduction by an employee of the Swiss Embassy.

“Swiss officials assert that the incident took place. Since December 2019, the CID has tried to link Bastians, and several others, to an inquiry into the alleged false accusation by the Swiss employee, seemingly attempting to prove some form of conspiracy. Pro-government media have conducted a campaign against Bastians and her family, supported by attacks on social media, labeling her a traitor and criminal,” the statement added.

According to the statement, the former editor of the Sunday Observer newspaper and contributor to the New York Times, Bastians had written extensively on human rights, militarization, corruption, religious freedom, democracy, and political rights in Sri Lanka.

“Her writing has consistently highlighted the struggles of people targeted by successive governments, especially religious and ethnic minorities,” the statement noted.

“The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Front Line Defenders condemn this assault on human rights and press freedom in Sri Lanka and call on the Sri Lanka Police to immediately stop the harassment and ensure Bastians’ safety,” the statement said.

Bastians was forced to leave Sri Lanka soon after the November 2019 presidential election Colombo Telegraph learns. Less than two weeks after the election President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s Government began investigating Bastians, harrassing her associates and exposing her telephone data claiming that she had been involved in a “plot” to abduct a Swiss Embassy employee. The embassy employee was detained against her will and the Government forced her to lodge a formal complaint but shortly thereafter charged her with falsifying a complaint. The Government then linked Bastians – a journalist who had been critical of the new President’s human rights record and had recently investigated and exposed his citizenship complications – and others to what it called a “fake kidnapping” to bring disrepute to the new regime.

In her final Editorial for the Sunday Observer, printed one week before the presidential election, Bastians said journalists “live and die” by their right to free expression and appealed to electors to “vote to keep journalists in “newsrooms across the country….safe from harm.”

One of the candidates on the ballot, she wrote “terrifies us”.

“Our in-depth investigations into the modus operandi of the attackers, leaves little doubt about what the stakes are at this election– for us as media practitioners – and for the fate of democracy in this country,” the editorial said.

We publish below the statement in full:

For Immediate Release

Sri Lanka: End Persecution of Journalist Dharisha Bastians Targeted for Reports, Defense of Human Rights

(June 24, 2020)

The Sri Lankan authorities should stop targeting, intimidating and harassing journalist and woman human rights defender Dharisha Bastians and her family. The Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Front Line Defenders condemn this assault on human rights and press freedom in Sri Lanka and call on the Sri Lanka Police to immediately stop the harassment and ensure Bastians’ safety.

Bastians is being targeted by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in its investigation into what the Sri Lankan government maintains is a false claim of abduction by an employee of the Swiss Embassy. Swiss officials assert that the incident took place. Since December 2019 the CID has tried to link Bastians and several others to an inquiry into the alleged false accusation by the Swiss employee, seemingly attempting to prove some form of conspiracy. Pro-government media have conducted a campaign against Bastians and her family, supported by attacks on social media, labelling her a traitor and criminal.

Bastians is the former editor of the Sunday Observer newspaper, a state-owned English language weekly. She is also a contributor to the New York Times. Bastians has written extensively on human rights, militarization, corruption, religious freedom, democracy and political rights in Sri Lanka. Her writing has consistently highlighted the struggles of people targeted by successive governments, especially religious and ethnic minorities.

This is not the first time Bastians and her family have been targeted due to her work. She has written about the families of the forcibly disappeared in Sri Lanka and their struggle for truth and accountability. Most notably, Bastians covered the “Navy Abduction Case,” in which the navy allegedly abducted 11 young men for extortion in 2008. The case implicates high-ranking naval officers. In July 2018, supporters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, including members of his family, denounced her and threatened legal action against her following an article she contributed to concerning Chinese investment in the Hambanthota Harbour in southern Sri Lanka and payments made by Chinese companies to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign fund.

After twice attempting to seize her personal laptop computer without a warrant, CID officers entered Bastians’ residence in Colombo on June 9 2020 with a warrant, searched the premises and her personal belongings, and seized the computer. Law enforcement officers have repeatedly targeted her colleagues, associates and family members in Sri Lanka.

In a statement on June 15 2020 on Twitter, Bastians said that in the course of the same investigation the CID obtained her call records “without a court order”. These records were “scrutinized” and the information “subsequently exposed”, which, she said, “could seriously endanger and compromise my sources and contacts, then, now and in the future.” While offering to cooperate with investigation efforts, she stressed that she remains “gravely concerned about potential efforts by interested parties to compromise the integrity” of the seized electronic material and devices.

On 16 June, the Colombo Chief Magistrate ordered that a government analyst inspect the device to ascertain if any alterations had been made between June 4 and June 16, when the laptop was produced in court. The next court hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 21.

Bastians is being targeted due to her work as a professional journalist and human rights defender. The signatory organizations strongly condemn the Sri Lankan government’s targeting, intimidation and harassment of Bastians. Sri Lankan authorities should immediately cease all attacks, intimidation, and harassment of Bastians, her associates, colleagues, and family in Sri Lanka and ensure their protection and safety.

Signed:

Signatory organizations:

Amnesty International Committee to Protect Journalists

Front Line Defenders

Human Rights Watch

Reporters Without Borders

For further information please contact:

Amnesty International – Nicholas Bequelin – Regional Director – Asia-Pacific – nicolas.bequelin@amnesty.org – +66 94132 2870

Committee to Protect Journalists – Steven Butler, Asia Program Coordinator, sbutler@cpj.org +1 (202)445-3216

Front Line Defenders – Adam Shapiro, Head of Communications & Visibility – adam@frontlinedefenders.org – +1-202-294-8813

Human Rights Watch – Meenakshi Ganguly – South Asia Director – Meenakshi Ganguly gangulm@hrw.org – +91 98200 36032

Reporters Without Borders – Daniel Bastard – Head of Asia-Pacific Desk – dbastard@rsf.org – +33 144 838470

 

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Latest comments

  • 29
    16

    It seems to me that some people wants to stop the “investigation” at whatever the cost.
    .
    We…..
    THE PEOPLE of this country…..
    Listen to “Dharisha Bastians” when she say “”electors to “vote to keep journalists in “newsrooms across the country””
    So…..
    Lets keep “Journalists in newsrooms” and…..
    Lets send fake journalist conspirators to jail.
    .
    Investigations in to fake abduction must continue and fabricators must put in jail.
    .

    • 30
      14

      And…..
      Swiss embassy itself decided to distance itself from the matter on instructions of Mr. Jörg Frieden once they realized that they got caught in a cheap political stunt.

    • 7
      13

      SCP,
      .
      why not you try now ?
      :
      I mean going to a school ?

      From what you add, make it crystal clear, your knowlege is a way short of the average.
      :
      Alone pleasing the backsides of RAJAPAKSHES would not help you or your family. BotOx babies would loot it to the last cent no matter the poverty would be multiple in a few months.
      :
      If CHINESE INVESTMENT INJECTION worked well today even if our tribal leaders let the nation be eternally slaved by CHINESE – it should become to today s Ethiopia right.
      :
      Adisabeba is now run by TRAMS while our COLOMBO is far from getting a tram for the people living there.

      https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=addis+abeba+tram

      Our leaders, being close to CHINESE they filled their pockets to the manner some black afros did but ETHIOPIANS are unique to have spent every cent for the upliftment of its nation.
      :
      Today we the 22 millions are behind Ethiopions with the ECONOMICA growth and other parameters. The investors boom their economy but ours is stagnant since our rascals dont seem to allow any kind of good developments. May curse be with Rajakshes.

      • 1
        3

        “I mean going to a school ?”

        Why are they looking for janitors?

        Haven’t you heard the saying: you can take a cow to the water but you cannot make it drink.

    • 1
      3

      S. C. Passqual

    • 6
      8

      S. C. Passqual

      How are you?

      “Investigations in to fake abduction must continue and fabricators must put in jail.”

      You got a point there.
      At the same time what would you suggest the state should do with those who claimed to have killed between 2000 and 3000 over night? Dismiss it as fake news?

  • 19
    10

    I feel sorry for Dharisa Bastians. She must have the knowledge of Lasantha. Sinhala Buddhists are always proud of Lasantha murderers.

    • 4
      19

      Mr. Ajith,
      .
      Keep your tears. Best is yet to come.

  • 5
    2

    Reporters Without Borders is signed by – Daniel Bastard? Just imagine somebody asking for his name and he replies “bastard”. Must be having a hard time.

    I do hope the Govt will reconsider the manner in which this journalist has been targeted.
    It is obvious that the Govt does not take any of these organisations seriously.
    But it is laudable that they have collectively written this in support of Bastians.
    Somebody should review all the articles carried by the SO during her tenure and perhaps then realize the real motive in hounding her. Sad to also note that excepting for the JVP the opposition has also abandoned her lock, stock and barrel.

  • 4
    11

    Lawyers should be exempted from criminal investigations.
    Sorry, Lawyers and Journalists should be exempted from criminal investigations.
    Sorry, Lawyers, Journalists and Doctors should be exempted from criminal investigations.

    Soma

    • 11
      4

      somass

      “Sorry, Lawyers, Journalists and Doctors should be exempted from criminal investigations.”

      Also Politicians, War Criminals, Saffron Brigades, members of Army, Navy, Police, Airforce, Public Racists, murderers, Drug Dealers, Mahinda, his sons, Gota, Basil, …………………………. ‘Sil Redi’ crooks, land grabbers, and ……. should be exempted from criminal investigations.

    • 1
      1

      Soma!

      Not only those mentioned by you, even MPs, Ministers, Army, Navy, Airforce, Policemen
      all Supporters of governments, Buddhist priests only( not other priests), and Big bribe takers like bond Scam people should not only be exempted from criminal investigations but also from any investigations what so ever, as they live in Gods Little Acre.
      This would greatly reduce the pending cases in the courts and expedite the other cases. Thus the judges will not be in an embarrassing position in giving a verdict.

    • 3
      4

      How about asking that synthetic lawyer Namal Baby to start practising his job ? As if Namal Baby s a senior minister of that bunch, he has the audacity to issue public statments today… What is with penisless GLP and other SENIORs inlcuding that dried pumpkin – Wasidewa Nanayakkara (88 years) and the nasal voice of the bunch Dinesh Gunawardhana ?

      In today s context, they go an extra mile in the misleading of their audiences with their PINGUTHTARAYAS are set to SILENT modes why is that ?

      I happened to watch MaRa enjoying his gatherings raising the questions ” what have they done during last 4.5 years ?”

      but what is being opened by the current bitch s sons are the projects that the previoius govt started
      .
      These men are beyond shameless buggers. I really dont know why very same people even attend in those public meetings as if they have nothing better to engage with.

  • 7
    3

    Let see if these organization can achieve anything before country becomes 179 of 179, again. Last time 43 Tamil journalists, (not counted like the Colombo based famous ones like Lasantha Eklinegoda) This week two Tamil policemen committed suicide, government simply said it was only love affair. It is not these police officers are dead, but the filthy, smelly, dirty government is throwing mud on those young ones.

  • 7
    3

    How can Bastians write about human rights? when she has no right to be human. That is why she is being treated inhumanly.

  • 4
    2

    Strongly worded ..

    Wow that is scary. I have on good authority Gota is scared and has gone to hide under the bed.

    Now the leelage balli can go to sleep.

  • 5
    3

    This is disgusting. The Rajapaksa’s are afraid of journalists, because they don’t want the truth coming out, because the guilty are always afraid. They want their supporters to be in the dark about the truth. It is predictable that they will now turn on these International agencies, to vent their anger, and call this “interference”. They have done this for years, blaming the West, and attacking UN officials who call for accountability for war crimes, or human rights violations. Suddenly the officials calling for accountability have their loyalty, religion, and agenda, questioned, and they are made to look like the villains. It seems only the Rajapaksa supporters are naive enough to not see through this act that goes on whenever there are international efforts at accountability.

    This poor lady was simply doing her job, and criticizing the government, something that is normal in democracies, yet a vindictive family outraged that their crimes are exposed, have harassed and attacked her, and her family, and it seems international human rights agencies have noticed. We should be ashamed that our journalists are treated this way, and that international agencies have to warn our government.

  • 1
    3

    Human right is not a right for Gota. With Vasu, Mahinda went to Geneva to report human right violations. Any advice is coming from them to Gota
    when he is trying to grill the journalist Darshika Bastian?

  • 4
    2

    Why can’t Bastians family delete anything from their computer? There was never a court order to handover her computer. When one, it was complied. There is no criminal case she is associated with. Anything she wanted to say was said publicly in media. There might have something that she didn’t want to publicize. That is her option.

    Was she a gang leader? Is that why her computer examined? These Modas doesn’t know that as soon as she went to America she have had tel-copied (Down loaded) all the info she wanted from that computer, including the Chinese commission payment cancelled checks for Kandy Ayatollah workers, during 2015 election. So now Aanduwa has to respect her, else she can drive really hard wedge to these barbarians. Her family and friends have to be let go if Lankawe wants to be in peace.

  • 1
    0

    And how these clown groups know that Darisha is innocent ? Did they conduct their own investigation ? How did they come to that conclusion ?

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