[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Thursday that the government of Sri Lanka [official website] is using its anti-terror legislation [JURIST report] to silence journalists [press release] who expose governmental human rights abuses and corruption or question how Sri Lanka is handling fighting with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [COFFER backgrounder; LTTE website], or "Tamil Tigers." Late last month Sri Lanka forced the closure of Standard Newspapers Ltd., publisher of two of Sri Lanka's most popular weekly papers, after seizing the company's assets. In late February, company spokesman and financial director Dushantha Basnayake was arrested under the anti-terror laws [BBC report], which enable broad arresting power and detention of individuals for up to a year without charges. Basnayake is still being held without charge.
Tiran Alles,owner of Standard Newspapers, is a close associate of two former government ministers who were fired by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa [official website] in February after being accused of plotting against the government. The ministers, who had previously criticized the government for perceived human rights abuses, were dismissed two days before the freezing of Standard Newspaper assets. HRW also noted that all sides of the Sri Lankan civil war, including LTTE, have restricted free speech and freedom of press in areas of their control. AP has more.