Sri Lanka to bring back tough law to curb media: reports

June 29, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka plans to bring back a tough criminal defamation law that was scrapped five years ago, reports said on Friday, drawing fire from media rights activists. Under the earlier law, journalists could be sentenced to two years in jail, but it was scrapped after local and international pressure. The reports follow statements by international rights groups that Sri Lanka is the most dangerous place in the world for reporters after Iraq, due to a worsening climate of violence and censorship.

The government discussed the re-introduction of a criminal defamation act on Wednesday, local newspapers said.

Junior Justice Minister Dilan Perera said he presented the proposal to cabinet but gave no reason why ministers wanted to re-introduce the law that was repealed in 2002, the reports said.

Local media rights group, the Free Media Movement, described the reported plan as a retrograde step and urged the government to reconsider.

“This law was used to prevent journalists undertaking investigative reporting to expose corruption and abuse of power,” the group said.

“The move to bring back criminal defamation laws exposes the intentions of a governme