Inspector-General of Police
Interfering the duties of the social media and new media activists
Social media and new media are internationally acclaimed for their outstanding and decisive effect on freedom of speech and expression. Also, the actors in these media who focus their attention on the people’s voices and needs are internationally recognized as media activists. These new trends of media are safeguarded by the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by section 14 of the constitution of Sri Lanka and the legal framework of the state recognizes their decisiveness.
In such a backdrop, the Media Law Forum which advocates the freedom of speech of the media activists both locally and internationally has observed that police are engaged in a practice of summoning media activists for questioning without informing them of the reasons, as a measure of influencing their work and terrifying them.
In the recent past, various sections of the police, including the Computer Crime Investigation Division of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have summoned several social media and new media activists such as Manjula Basnayaka, and Darshana Handungoda, Manorama Weerasinghe, and Thisara Anuruddha Bandara. It was remarkable that on each of these occasions, the reason for the summoning was not disclosed.
The latest development is media activist Tharindu Uduwaragedara receiving a polite message asking him to appear before the Computer Crime Investigation Division of CID at 9 a.m. on 28th June 2022. Uduwaragedara is a person who has experience in several newspapers as a professional journalist and he is a former president and presently an active member of the Young Journalists’ Association.
The message was sent to his residence in Bandarawela without mentioning any reason for the summoning. The message further noted to contact Sub Inspector Madhusankha of the Computer Crime Investigation Division of CID for further details. When Uduwaragedara telephoned the relevant officer, he said that he had been summoned to record a statement concerning a complaint by the intelligence wing of the Sri Lanka Air Force against Uduwaragedara’s YouTube channel.
Media Law Forum further highlights that immediate focus is necessary to the matter of calling the media activists who are based on social and new media to police without giving reasons because it is an influence against the freedom of speech and expression and press freedom in general.
Therefore, Media Law Forum earnestly requests police to welcome the rights of the social and new media activists and refrain from influencing and interfering with their work which amounts to a violation of freedom of speech and expression.