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Last updated: 27 February, 2007 - Published 19:09 GMT
 
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RSF condemns Mawbima director arrest
 
Dushantha Basnayake
Mawbima editor accuses Defence Secretary of ordering the arrest
International media watchdogs have condemned the "improper use" of anti-terror laws to question and arrest media personnel.

"The anti-terrorism laws are designed for the arrest of terrorists, not journalists or opposition figures," Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement.

The media watchdog was protesting the arrest of Dushantha Basnayake, a director of Mawbima Sinhala weekly on Monday evening.

Defence Secretary 'involved'

In a statement, Mawbima editor Thilakarathne Kuruvita Bandara and Director, editorial, Ruwan Ferdinandez accused Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of ordering the arrest.

 The arrest of Dushantha Basnayake, who is close to a political adversary of President Mahinda Rajapakse, looks above all like retaliation
 
RSF

Rajapaksa is the younger brother of Sri Lanka President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Prior to the arrest, the statement said, the authorities have suspended the passports of Basnayake and Tiran Alles, owner and the chairman of the newspaper group.

Kuruvita Bandara told BBC Sandeshaya that Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) of the police who arrested him did not allow legal representatives to visit Basnayake on Tuesday.

Lawyers prevented

He accused the authorities of trying to control the paper's news coverage by arresting Basnayake, the spokesman of Mawbima newspaper.

"The weekly Mawbima has a reputation for criticising the government and for condemning human rights abuses and corruption in Sri Lanka," RSF statement issued on Tuesday said.

 Young Tamil journalist on the paper, Munusamy Parameshawary, has been held by the TID under the anti-terror law since November 2006
 
RSF

The worldwide press freedom organisation recalls that a Tamil journalist worked for the newspaper is yet to be charged or released.

"Young Tamil journalist on the paper, Munusamy Parameshawary, has been held by the TID under the anti-terror law since November 2006".

It added: "The arrest of Dushantha Basnayake, who is close to a political adversary of President Mahinda Rajapakse, looks above all like retaliation."

Ferdinandez and Alles are close allies of sacked minister Manglala Samaraweera.

Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi were sacked from their portfolios by President Rajapaksa earlier this month.

Both accused Rajapaksa's government of gross human rights violations and cronyism.

Rajapaksa accused them of having closer links with Tamil Tigers and plotting against him.

 
 
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