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, former Sunday Observer Editor Dharisha Bastians stated in a letter shared with media outlets on June 15.
Ms. Bastians, who also wrote to the New York Times as its correspondent, released the letter after the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) had seized her laptop last Tuesday (9).
‘For several months now my name has been linked to an ongoing criminal investigation into an alleged abduction that took place in November 2019,’ she shared.
Former colleagues and associates of Ms Bastians had also been questioned by the CID in connection with the investigation. She said the questioning revolved especially around her electronic devices.
The CID had visited Ms. Bastians residence in Colombo on May 29, 2020 and again on June 4, 2020 and had attempted to seize her 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,’ Ms. Bastians explained in her statement.
Later, on June 9, 2020 five CID officials had arrived at her residence again with a warrant to search the house.
‘The officers searched the entire house including bedrooms, my desk and my work space. 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 in the course of the same investigation, the CID obtained my Call Data Records without a court order, scrutinized them and subsequently exposed the information,’ she added, sharing her concerns about the safety of her sources and contacts.
She said she is willing to cooperate with the investigations conducted by’ appropriate law enforcement agencies’.
‘I am confident the CID will find nothing incriminating in the analysis of my computer’, she says, adding ‘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.’
She added that she put her faith in Sri Lanka’s judiciary, to ensure due process is followed during the handling of her computer that is now in the custody of the CID.
‘Particularly because it is a device I once used in my work as a journalist,’ she said.