Government harassment of civil society threatens Sri Lankan democracy

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Posted 11 July 2014 by

Transparency International condemns the intimidation of civil society organisations in Sri Lanka and calls on the government to safeguard the right of people to speak out freely.

Recently the Ministry of Defence issued a warning that civil society organisations do not have the right to conduct “press conferences, workshops, training for journalists and dissemination of press releases.” This prevents citizens from holding their leaders to account.

Transparency International calls on Sri Lanka to fulfil its international obligations, and protect the rights to freedom of association and expression. Sri Lanka, which ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2004, has an obligation under Article 13 “to promote the active participation of … civil society … in the prevention of and the fight against corruption.”

“Threatening to silence the voice of the people is a threat to democracy,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “The government must actively support and nurture civil society to show its commitments to democratic values like the freedom of expression. These values are enshrined in Sri Lanka’s constitution and international treaties.”

The recent warning to civil society is the latest in a series of threats aimed at limiting the work of Transparency International Sri Lanka and other non-governmental organisations.

Most recently a workshop organised by Transparency International Sri Lanka to train journalists how to investigate corruption was disrupted three times in three locations forcing its cancellation.

In March the International Board of Transparency International warned that the shrinking space for civil society posed a great threat to both the fight against corruption and the strengthening of democracy around the world. Transparency International Sri Lanka's staff takes serious risks to challenge corruption in their country.

Their personal safety and their right to free speech is the top priority of Transparency International, in Sri Lanka and in the more than 100 countries around the world where we have a presence.

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