‘No Press Conferences’ Sri Lanka Tells NGOs

The order, sent widely to civil society groups earlier this month, said all NGOs should refrain from “unauthorized activities with immediate effect”.

“It has been revealed that certain Non Governmental Organizations conduct press conferences, workshops, training for journalists, and dissemination of press releases which is beyond their mandate,” said the letter.

A group of 30 private charities and other organizations on Wednesday announced an alliance — called the Civil Society Collective to Protect Civil Society Space — to resist the restrictions.

“This demonstrates the lack of democracy in Sri Lanka,” lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, who runs the local chapter of anti-corruption group Transparency International, mentioned earlier to international media.

Authorities have often accused foreign and local charities of supporting dissidents and introduced tougher regulations to control them in 2010, a year after troops crushed Tamil rebels and ended decades of ethnic war Weliamuna said his organization would continue its work monitoring corruption and exposing wrongdoers.

He said other NGOs would also defy the order. Several media training programs organized by Transparency International in recent months were disrupted by pro-government activists, he said. The group had also been prevented from conducting workshops to teach investigative journalism to local reporters.

Last August, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay accused Sri Lanka of becoming “increasingly authoritarian” under President Mahinda Rajapakse, who has extended his powers since being elected in 2005. Rights groups have long sought to highlight problems for the media in Sri Lanka, where many journalists practice self-censorship after more than a dozen journalists and media workers were killed in recent years.

The US government also expressed concern at the crackdown on NGOs. “We strongly urge the government of Sri Lanka to allow civil society organizations and NGOs, which play a vital role in supporting Sri Lanka’s democratic values, to operate freely,” the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in Colombo.

© 2019 Asian Mirror (pvt) Ltd