The IFJ joins its affiliate the Free
Media Movement (FMM) in calling for the immediate release of Lanka-e-News news editor Bennett Rupasinghe,
who was arrested on March 31 on charges related to an arson attack on the news
portal’s office earlier this year.
In the early hours of January 31, unknown arsonists
destroyed the Lanka-e-News offices in Malabe, near the
causing around USD 135,000 worth of damage. At 2:30am the same night, Rupasinghe, 68,
received a call from an unknown person threatening to kill him if he did not
stop his work.
Police arrested two suspects soon after the incident but
the men were released on bail because police failed to produce evidence upholding
their guilt. It is alleged that Rupasinghe threatened one of the men’s brothers
at gunpoint and also threatened him over the phone. However,
police told the Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court they were unable to find the weapon
that Rupasinghe allegedly used.
According to the FMM, Rupasinghe was
arrested by police after being summoned to Wellampitiya police station to
record a statement. He is also accused of withholding information from Sri Lankan officials. Rupasinghe’s lawyers told FMM that
they believe the police are turning him into a suspect of the arson attack for
“This arrest appears to be yet
another attempt to silence media organisations and journalists who are openly critical
of the Government of Sri Lanka and
must be called into question,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director
Jacqueline Park said.
“The authorities must ensure that a thorough investigation into
the Lanka-e-News arson attack is
conducted swiftly, so those responsible are brought to justice.”
The FMM reports several other Lanka-e-News journalists have been under
surveillance since the arson. Journalists Sanjaya Dasanayake and Shantha
Wijesooriya reported being followed to work recently and Lanka-e-News lawyer Manjula Pathiraja was
Sandaruwan Senadeera blamed the Government of Sri Lanka
for orchestrating the arson attack to silence his dissenting website, an AFP
report said. Senadeera fled to Britain
after receiving death threats in January 2010. Cartoonist and columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who
has been missing since January 24, 2010 also worked for the organisation until
the time of his disappearance.
being held in custody until a hearing on April 7.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
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