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Rights group slams Sri Lanka over murder probe

[AFP, Thursday, 9 April 2009 09:55 No Comment]

An international media rights group said Thursday there was a "lack of political will" in Sri Lanka to identify the killers of an anti-establishment newspaper editor.


The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders accused Sri Lankan authorities of dragging out the probe into the murder of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, who was gunned down near the capital on January 8.


"Members of the government have made contradictory statements about the motives and identity of this leading journalist?s murderers," RSF said.


"We urge President (Mahinda) Rajapakse to assign members of the criminal investigation police to the case and to formally request the help of international experts in solving the murder."


Wickrematunga was a member of the majority Sinhalese community but was fiercely critical of government policy, especially its bloody and costly war against Tamil rebels.


RSF said there was no "political will to resolve the case," leaving Wickrematunga’s family and colleagues to believe that the authorities have no interest in arresting the perpetrators or the instigators.


Police have arrested a suspect who stole Wickrematunga?s mobile phone from the scene of the murder but there have been no other arrests in connection with the case.


Three months before the murder, Rajapakse called Wickrematunga a "terrorist journalist" during an interview with RSF representatives in Colombo, the RSF said in its latest statement.


"Wickrematunga?s murder in the capital marked a dramatic escalation in press freedom violations," RSF said.

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