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The News Line: Feature SRI LANKA IS 'SCREENING' IDPs, JAILLING DISSIDENTS AND MONITORING WEBSITES TamilNet reports that 1191 members of 385 Internally Displaced families among the hundreds of thousands detained in Vavuniyaa internment camps after the fall of Vanni region to the government forces were brought to Eastern province Sunday and Monday in two batches.

They were transported to Batticaloa and Ampaa’rai in Sri Lanka Army buses, under heavy escort, sources in Vavuniyaa said.

The 941 members of 355 families are lodged in a transit camp located in Batticaloa Sinhala Maha Vidiyalaya.

Some 250 members of thirty families are sheltered in Kaaraiththeevu Vipulaanantha Maha Viththiyaalayam.

They will be sent to their villages in the districts of Batticaloa and Ampaa’rai after being screened by the security forces to find out whether any persons involved in terrorist activity in past were among them, civil authority sources said.

Sri Lanka was ranked 162nd of the 175 countries in the latest press freedom ranking released by the Paris based Reporters without Borders on Wednesday.

‘To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders prepared a questionnaire with 40 criteria that assess the state of press freedom in each country.

‘It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment).

‘Ánd it includes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations,’ RSF said in its website, explaining the details behind computing the index.

South Korea (69th) and Taiwan (59th) fell far this year. South Korea plummeted 22 places because of the arrests of several journalists and bloggers and the conservative government’s attempts to control critical media.

The new ruling party in Taiwan tried to interfere in state and privately-owned media while violence by certain activists further undermined press freedom.

Meanwhile, the Information Department of the Government of Sri Lanka is blacklisting and carrying out round-the-clock monitoring of private websites that are known to spread anti-government propaganda, and feed incorrect information.

‘Counter propaganda will be launched by the government to safeguard the present environment of peace and prevent unrest among the public,’ said Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeyawardene at a press briefing held Tuesday.

‘When browsing through some of these websites we wonder whether there is an insidious attempt to create a rift between President Mahinda Rajapakse and the military leaders,’ Yapa said.

‘There has been a sharp increase in fabricated or misleading propaganda which has been a hindrance to maintaining peace and stability in Sri Lanka.

‘The screening of the news reports and feature articles would be carried out by a committee especially selected by the Information Department,’ Minister Yapa said.

He said that the mainstream newspapers and TV channels have acted with responsibility, but a section of the electronic and print media that have ‘behaved in an irresponsible manner.’

‘Through newspaper advertisements we will correct misinformation and give the government’s take on those issues while exposing websites that publish such misinformation,’ Minister Yapa said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has said Sri Lanka fails to meet the human rights standards needed for GSP+, preferential trade aid.

‘National legislation of Sri Lanka incorporating international human rights conventions, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is not being effectively implemented.

‘In the light of these findings, the Commission will now consider whether a temporary withdrawal of some or all of Sri Lanka's GSP+ benefits is called for and make a suitable proposal to EU Member States in the Council.

‘If such a proposal is made and subsequently adopted by the Council, it would enter into force six months after the date of adoption,’ the European Commission said in the notice summarising the Commission’s findings on the Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status released on Wednesday.

Despite EU findings that Sri Lanka failed to meet several key human rights thresholds, TamilNet warns the Tamil community to be cautious in expecting a termination of GSP+ status to Sri Lanka.

The EU’s collective approach to confront Sri Lanka’s human rights ills will only be clear after the Commission ‘considers whether to call for a temporary withdrawal of some or all of GSP+ benefits’ and if the EU ‘adopts’ the proposal of the Commission.

The EU Commission Final Report states:

‘Sri Lanka has benefited from the European Union’s Generalised System of Preferences special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (“GSP+”) since 2005.

‘GSP+ provides additional tariff preferences – in the form of additional reductions or even elimination of import duties beyond those already provided in its standard GSP – for vulnerable developing countries which ratify and effectively implement certain core international conventions on human and labour rights, environmental protection and good governance.’

The Independent Experts Report states:

‘The granting and maintenance of GSP+ benefits is conditional on the beneficiary countries fulfilling conditions for eligibility set out in Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008 (the GSP Regulation).

‘The regulation makes provision for the temporary withdrawal of some or all GSP+ benefits if national legislation no longer incorporates the relevant international conventions or if legislation is not effectively implemented.

‘Where the Commission receives information that may justify such temporary withdrawal, the GSP Regulation provides for the Commission to undertake an investigation to clarify the situation and propose appropriate action.’

The EC press notice adds: ‘In light of available information, the Commission determined that there were sufficient grounds to open an investigation into the effective implementation of certain human rights conventions by Sri Lanka on 14 October 2008.

‘Sri Lanka continues to benefit from GSP+ preferences pending the conclusion of the investigation and was therefore included in the list of GSP+ beneficiary countries for 2009-11 subject to the outcome.

‘The Commission completed its investigation and approved a report on its findings on 19 October 2009.

‘The Commission received and carefully examined submissions made by interested parties in response to a public notice, available reports, statements and information of the United Nations as well as other publicly available reports and information from relevant sources, including nongovernmental organisations.

‘The Commission also requested an independent expert assessment of the effective implementation of the three conventions at issue.

‘Finally, the Commission took into account the information provided by Sri Lanka in the framework of the parallel political dialogue.

‘The Commission’s findings are that the national legislation of Sri Lanka incorporating international human rights conventions, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is not being effectively implemented.

‘In the light of these findings, the Commission will now consider whether a temporary withdrawal of some or all of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ benefits is called for and make a suitable proposal to EU Member States in the Council.

‘If such a proposal is made and subsequently adopted by the Council, it would enter into force six months after the date of adoption.’
 
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