Lasantha Wikramatunga, the chief editor of the English Weekly, which is critical of the Rajapaksa government was shot by unknown gunmen Thursday morning around 9:30 a.m. while he was on his way to work, initial reports from Colombo said. Mr. Wikramatunga was rushed to Kalubowila hospital in critical condition. The newspaper and its editor as well as the editor of Morning Leader have been harassed and threatened continuously during the last three years. All Leader publications are very critical towards the government and exponents of opposition political views.
Harassments and attacks on media has been stepped up after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has brought the Media Ministry under him on the New Year Day.
On Tuesday, a group of 20 unidentified attackers who arrived in a white van armed with T-56 assault rifles, pistols and swords stormed the Maharaja Television Network Limited relay station at Depanama in Pannipitiya in Nugegoda and caused extensive damage to the station. Many of the sensitive equipment were put out of function. According to the spokesperson for the MTV group, the damage estimated millions.
On 21 November, a twelve-member group of masked men, forcibly entered the printing press of Sunday Leader, Morning Leader and Irudina Sinhala weekly and set fire damaging printing machines and copies of newspapers printed ready for distribution.
The paper office was also attacked earlier in 2005.