Sri Lanka: Judicial harassment against independent journalist Tharindu Uduwaragedara
LKA 002 / 0622 / OBS 057
June 28, 2022
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Sri Lanka.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment against independent journalist Mr. Tharindu Uduwaragedara, who has been reporting on the ongoing protests across Sri Lanka against government corruption and lack of basic resources. Mr. Uduwaragedara runs the “Satahan Radio” YouTube channel, where he reports on police violence, restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. He is the former President of the Sri Lanka Young Journalist Association (SLYJA) and former Executive Committee member of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association.
On June 22, 2022, Mr. Uduwaragedara was requested by the Computer Crimes Division of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Police in Colombo to appear for an inquiry on June 28, 2022. Mr. Uduwaragedara subsequently called the Sub-Inspector of police Madushanka to inquire about the reason of his summons. He was informed that the CID inquiry is related to videos on his YouTube channel, particularly to alleged “contradictions between headings and the content in his videos”. Furthermore, Mr. Uduwaragedara was informed that the Intelligence Division of the Air Force had filed another complaint against him.
On the same day, Mr. Uduwaragedara filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) on the basis that the complaint filed against him was an attempt to silence him for his work as a professional journalist.
The investigation into Mr. Uduwaragedara’s YouTube channel takes places in the context of the ongoing anti-government protests in Sri Lanka, which he has widely documented through his journalistic work. Mr. Uduwaragedara has exposed government corruption and irregularities, and publicly criticised the police crackdown on peaceful protesters, including through excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, and acts of intimidation against them.
The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment against Mr. Tharindu Uduwaragedara and underlines that these hostile acts are aimed at punishing him for his legitimate exercise of human rights defense. The Observatory further condemns the violence and police brutality used by the police during many of the protests.
The Observatory express concerns over the actions taken by the CID in Sri Lanka, as it creates a chilling effect for journalists and human rights defenders in the country.
The Observatory urges authorities to put an end to the judicial harassment and investigation against Mr. Tharindu Uduwaragedara and to guarantee his physical integrity and psychological well-being.
Please write to the authorities of Sri Lanka, urging them to:
i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Tharindu Uduwaragedara;
ii. Put an immediate end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Tharindu Uduwaragedara and all other human rights defenders in Sri Lanka;
iii. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- President H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @GotabayaR
- Hon. Ranil Wickremasinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @RW_UNP
- Hon. Sanjay Rajaratnam, Attorney General of Sri Lanka, Email: email@example.com
- Justice Rohini Marasinghe, Chairperson, Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- H.E. Mr. C. A. Chandraprema, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, E-mail: email@example.com
- H. E. Ms. Grace Asirwatham, Ambassador, Embassy of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Brussels (also accredited to Luxembourg and to the European Union), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Sri Lanka in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, June 28, 2022
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
- E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
- Tel. FIDH: +33 1 43 55 25 18
- Tel. OMCT: +41 22 809 49 39