CID officers have searched the Colombo residence of career journalist and former Editor of the State-owned Sunday Observer, Dharisha Bastians, and taken away her computer last week.
Bastians, who was forced to leave the country after the change in Government, after her name was dragged into an investigation Involving the alleged abduction of an employee of the Swiss Embassy in Colombo, said that as a journalist, she is horrified at the public exposure of her telephone records, which could seriously endanger and compromise sources and contacts, then, now and in the future.
In a note sent to colleagues in the media about the unfolding CID investigation, Bastians said that for several months, her name has been linked to an ongoing criminal investigation into an alleged abduction that took place in November 2019, and in connection with this investigation, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has questioned her associates and former colleagues specifically regarding her electronic devices.
“On 29 May 2020 and 4 June 2020, officials from the Criminal Investigation Department arrived at my home in Colombo, and made efforts to seize my personal laptop computer without a warrant. We obtained legal assistance, and my family informed the CID officials that the device could not be handed over without a court order,” Bastians said.
On 9 June 2020, five CID officials arrived at her residence in Colombo with a warrant to search the house. “The officers searched the entire house including bedrooms, my desk, and my workspace. Photographs were taken during the visit. My computer was found, seized, and sealed. A receipt was provided for the laptop, the power adapter, and the laptop bag. Statements were recorded from family members residing at my home,” she said.
“On a previous occasion during the same investigation, the CID obtained my Call Data Records without a court order, scrutinised them, and subsequently exposed the information. As a journalist, I was horrified at the public exposure of my telephone records, which could seriously endanger and compromise my sources and contacts, then, now and in the future,” Bastians said.
She added that she is willing to cooperate with any investigation by appropriate law enforcement agencies and is confident the CID will find nothing incriminating in the analysis of her computer, but “under the prevailing circumstances, I remain gravely concerned about potential efforts by interested parties to compromise the integrity of hardware, software, data and documents of the laptop and any other electronic material/devices belonging to me, obtained by law enforcement. “
Bastians said she puts her faith in Sri Lanka’s Judiciary to ensure due process is followed with regard to her computer, which is now in the custody of the CID, particularly because it is a device she once used in her work as a journalist.