Media rights group presses Sri Lanka

A rights group on Friday urged Sri Lanka to thoroughly investigate recent attacks against the media, saying it was disappointed with the government’s stance.

Board members of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) met in Washington on Thursday with the Sri Lankan ambassador, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, to lodge their concerns.

The group quoted the ambassador as saying the government was “repulsed” by attacks on the media and “in no way condones or endorses
any such attacks.”

“While we appreciate the opportunity to convey our concerns directly to the ambassador and his staff, we hoped to emerge from the meeting with assurances of a robust and vigorous investigation into these appalling crimes,” said Joel Simon, the group’s executive director.

“We were disappointed not to receive any such assurance,” he said in a statement.

The rights group charged that assailants who attack the media enjoy impunity and said reporters who wrote critically about the government’s
campaign against Tamil rebels were subject to harassment.

The committee pressed for further investigation into the death of Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the Sunday Leader, who was shot by unknown gunmen in January as he drove to work.

His newspaper was fiercely critical of government policy, especially its war against Tamil rebels.

CPJ also voiced concern over Tamil journalist JS Tissainayagam, who marks one year in detention Saturday as he faces terrorism charges.

The Tigers have been fighting since 1972 to carve out a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The military has voiced confidence at soon ending the conflict, with the Tigers now holed up in a small jungle strip near the coast.

The United Nations has been pressing both sides to suspend hostilities to allow the flight of more than 200 000 civilians estimated to be trapped.—Sapa-AFP

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