The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) releasing a statement has demanded that the laptop and other equipment belonging to journalist and former Sunday Observer Editor Dharisha Bastians seized by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) be handed back to her.
According to the SLWJA, any journalist being subjected to a legal or any other inquiry in his or her professional capacity must be dealt with according to internationally accepted norms. “Also one must act as to not negatively impact the journalist’s sources and contacts,” the release said.
The Association also noted that Bastians had expressed her concerns to them of the possibility that contents of the laptop now seized by the CID could be unofficially released to the public. Therefore the SLWJA has requested that her electronic equipment be released back to her.
Meanwhile also releasing a statement last week the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Sri Lankan authorities should immediately return journalist Dharisha Bastians’ computer and allow her to report without fear of official harassment.
“CPJ strongly objects to the seizure of journalist Dharisha Bastians’ laptop and is concerned it could further endanger her sources,” said Aliya Iftikhar, CPJ’s senior Asia researcher. “Sri Lankan authorities should immediately end this intimidation campaign against Bastians, which is clearly retaliation for her critical reporting.”
On June 16 Colombo Cheif Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne ordered the Government Analysts Department to examine if any alterations have been made to the personal laptop of Journalist and Former Editor of the Sunday Observer Dharisha Bastians since June 4. The order was given after counsels appearing on behalf of Bastian’s made an application to the court.
In a statement recently Bastians revealed that on May 29 and then June 4, the CID had visited her home and attempted to seize her laptop without a warrant. According to her on legal advice, the family had informed the CID that it could not be handed over without a court order.
on June 9 five CID officials had once again arrived at her residence in Colombo with a warrant to search the house. According to her the officers had searched the entire house and gone on to seize her laptop.
Meanwhile, Bastians in her statement noted that a previous occasion in the course of the same investigation, the CID had obtained her Call Data Records without a court order, scrutinized them and subsequently exposed the information. “As a journalist, I was horrified at the public exposure of my telephone records, which could seriously endanger and compromise my sources and contacts, then, now and in the future,” she said in a statement released to the media. Bastians’s name has been linked to the Swiss Embassy abduction saga.