AI calls for investigation into Sri Lankan newspaper editor’s shooting death

Amnesty International Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009

Amnesty International Calls for Investigation into Sri Lankan Newspaper Editor’s Shooting Death
Human Rights Organization Cites Numerous Incidents of Press Intimidation, Torture and Killings in Sri Lanka

Contact: AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302, lspann@aiusa.org

(Washington) — Amnesty International urges the government of Sri Lanka to publicly condemn the shooting of Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader newspaper, and other attacks on the media. The human rights organization calls on Sri Lankan authorities to launch an independent investigation into the incident and other reported attacks on journalists.

Mr Wickramatunga was shot Thursday morning by unidentified gunmen while traveling in Mount Lavinia, Colombo, and rushed to Kalubowila hospital where he died. His newspaper, the Sunday Leader has carried a number of articles exposing political interference and corruption in privatization deals. Sunday Leader commentators have also drawn attention to human rights abuses in the context of intensified fighting.

This is not the first time that the Sunday Leader and its staff have come under attack: in 2007, the printing presses at Leader group of Publications were attacked by 10 armed men who threatened employees and set fire to some of the equipment and the newspaper that had just been printed. In 2006, Lasantha Wickramatunga was threatened with arrest under anti-terrorist laws over a story criticizing the president.

The shooting comes just two days after the privately owned MVC/MTV television studios in Colombo were ransacked by a gang of attackers who used claymore bombs to damage property.

At least 14 media workers have been unlawfully killed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of 2006. Others have been arbitrarily detained, tortured and allegedly disappeared while in the custody of security forces. More than 20 journalists have left the country in response to death threats.

To date, Amnesty International is unaware of any investigation that has led to the arrest and prosecution of those believed responsible for the killing of journalists and other media workers. The lack of any thorough investigations into unlawful killings means that these kinds of attacks can continue with impunity.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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