Probe urged into Sri Lanka TV star ‘execution’
A New York-based media rights organisation Tuesday called for an international inquiry into the death of a Sri Lankan television presenter who was allegedly executed by government forces.
A documentary by Britain’s Channel 4, "Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields", contained footage of what it said were prisoner executions in the final days of fighting between government troops and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
The bullet-riddled body of a female TV anchor known as Issipriya was shown alongside men in Sri Lankan army uniform as they executed two naked blindfolded men who had their hands tied behind their backs.
"Channel 4 has provided solid evidence that Issipriya was murdered and that a war crime may have been committed," Bob Dietz of the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement.
"Moreover, she was reportedly working as a journalist. It is essential that an international inquiry make use of this and any other evidence to investigate and prosecute those responsible."
Issipriya was a popular presenter on a clandestine television station run by the Tamil Tigers in areas they held before its transmitting towers were brought down by air force bombers at the height of fighting.
Sri Lanka’s defence ministry in a statement posted on its website maintained that the woman was not a journalist but a combatant of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who held the rank of "lieutenant colonel."
"It is unfortunate that Channel 4, ignoring evidence of her active involvement in terrorist activities… white washes her by claiming that she was just a journalist and not engaged in combat operations," the ministry said.
Sri Lanka’s High Commission (embassy) in London said the images shown in the programme a week ago had not been verified as genuine.
The High Commission added that a local panel known as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was ready to take note of the claims and take remedial legal action.
However, there has been no firm word from Colombo if it will probe the allegations. Much of the Channel 4 footage had been broadcast in the past 18 months and Sri Lanka has dismissed all of it as fabrications.