Nov 01, Colombo: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the detention and interrogation of two of its journalists by Sri Lankan authorities before deporting them for violating country's visa regulations.
IFJ's Asia-Pacific Director Jacqui Park and Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Jane Worthington were detained by Sri Lanka's immigration authorities on Wednesday for questioning on the grounds that they participated in a media workshop while on a tourist visa.
The IFJ said the two journalists were detained at a press freedom meeting in Colombo on Wednesday and were held in their hotel and subjected to lengthy interrogation by defence and immigration officials and the Criminal Investigation Department all Thursday.
The two have been allowed to leave after being detained without charge since Wednesday October 30.
The Brussels-based journalists' organization accused Sri Lankan authorities of taking the two journalists from the meeting to their hotel against their wishes and confiscating their passports.
The IFJ charged that the interrogating officers inserted a device into Ms Park's laptop and appeared to download files.
The journalists have cooperated fully with authorities at every stage of the lengthy questioning process, IFJ said, acknowledging that they have not been physically harmed.
Sri Lankan Immigration authorities have said that according to the country's visa regulations participating in media workshop or seminars without accreditation is illegal.
However, the IFJ said according to the Sri Lankan Government-operated Electronic Travel Authorization system website, attending workshops is not prohibited under the conditions of the Sri Lankan tourist visa.
The IFJ says it is adamant that no breaches of visa conditions have occurred and "unequivocally" denies that the journalists were engaged in any "anti-government activism" in breach of their visa conditions as the Sri Lankan Minister of Mass Media and Information Keheliya Rambukwella accused.
"The IFJ believes this move by Sri Lankan officials is an attempt to intimidate and harass journalists inside and outside Sri Lanka to prevent reporting on the realities of life in Sri Lanka in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, which begins in Colombo on November 15," the organization said in a statement.