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Tharindu Uduwaragedara

HRD, Journalist
Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA)

Tharindu Uduwaragedara is a well known independent journalist and media rights campaigner. He is the former president and active member of the Sri Lanka Young Journalist Association (SLYJA) and an Executive Committee member of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA). He has worked at several Sinhala language newspapers including “Ravaya” and “Anidda” known for their investigative journalism and open critique of government. Tharindu has his own you tube channel “Satahan Radio” dedicated to independent reporting on social issues and human rights violations.

The situation for human Rights Defenders has significantly improved since Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015, with improved conditions for freedom of expression, civil society and judicial independence. The Sirisena administration has ushered in a broad reversal of the country’s authoritarian drift under Mahinda Rajapaksa, but human rights defenders fighting against corruption, enforced disappearances or defending environmental rights remain at great risk.

Despite the end of the armed conflict with the Tamil Tigers in 2009, strict security laws are in force and the situation for HRDs working on enforced disappearances, torture and land rights remains critical. HRDs seeking accountability for violations committed by both parties to the conflict face serious risks, including death threats, smear campaigns, judicial harassment, torture, enforced disappearance and killing. The army has also imposed some restrictions on assembly in Tamil regions. Impunity for crimes against HRDs is a major concern, since the current government shows no real intention to hold security forces responsible for the crimes they committed against HRDs and journalists during the civil war and the Rajapaksa years. Press freedom remains fragile, as journalists still face difficulties covering certain topics and are subject to harassment and intimidation. The revival of the Press Council - widely employed under Rajapaksa to target independent voices - in July 2015 has also alarmed HRDs.