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Sri Lanka govt under fire over editor murder

[AFP, Friday, 9 January 2009 07:46 No Comment]

capt.photo_1231436016632-1-0 Local and foreign media rights groups Friday demanded international pressure on Sri Lanka after the murder of an anti-establishment editor and rising attacks against independent media.


The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) asked foreign ambassadors in Colombo to "weigh in forcefully and immediately with President Mahinda Rajapakse to put an end to the attacks raining down on Sri Lanka’s media."


"The international community in Colombo must act quickly to bring pressure on President Rajapakse to reverse this murderous trend," the CPJ said.


It said the sheer brutality of the attacks in recent days was a clear indicator of how the war on the Sri Lankan media has moved far beyond the use of threats, intimidation, legal harassment, and sporadic violence.

The United States also joined in condemning Thursday’s execution-style murder of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga by unidentified gunmen just outside the capital.


"This is the second attack in 48 hours against individuals or media outlets and just the latest in a string of incidents against journalists," the US said in a statement that demanded an immediate probe and safety of media.


The local Free Media Movement and the Working Journalists Association demanded speedy investigations and said the government must get at the perpetrators if it wanted to clear its name.

Sri Lanka’s main opposition has said it does not trust the local police to investigate and demanded an international probe.


The shooting came just two days after unidentified attackers torched a privately owned television station labelled as "unpatriotic" by sections of the state media for its coverage of the island’s bitter ethnic conflict.

The Sunday Leader is virulently anti-establishment and regularly lampoons politicians. Wickrematunga, a qualified lawyer, had often fought defamation cases brought by senior politicians.


Rajapakse quickly condemned the killing, saying it highlighted "the existence of forces that will go to the furthest extremes in using terror and criminality to damage our social fabric."


The European Union said the killing exacerbated its concerns about the freedom of Sri Lanka’s media and demanded "protection mechanisms" for media workers.

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