The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
strongly condemns an arson attack on the offices of LankaENews, a popular news portal
operating out of a suburb of the Sri Lankan
capital city of Colombo.
to information made available to the IFJ, a group of unidentified people broke
into the office of the news portal at about 2am on January 31 and set fire to all
the fixtures and equipment they could find. Reports received as late as 8am
mentioned that the office building was still ablaze and could be completely
gutted. The extent of damage caused has been estimated at LKR (Sri Lanka Rupee) 15 million (about USD 135,000).
also been reported that Sri Lanka’s
president, Mahinda Rajapakse, has ordered the Inspector-General of Police to
launch an investigation into the arson attack on an urgent basis.
shocked at this incident, which is consistent with a pattern of attempts to
intimidate and harass independent media organisations and where those fail,
outright attacks on media personnel and premises,” IFJ
Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
Eknaligoda, a cartoonist and columnist with LankaENews
went missing in January 2010, just days before polls opened in Sri Lanka’s
presidential elections. He has not yet been traced. The editor-in-chief and
founder of the news portal, Sendaruwan Senadeera, went into exile in 2010 after
being called in for questioning by the police and intelligence services on no
fewer than eight times in the previous year.
The IFJ has
been informed that the attack on the LankaENews
office may have been provoked by two recent reports that it carried. A report on
January 24 attributed a recent visit by Rajapakse to the United States officially described
as “private”, to his need for urgent medical treatment for an unexplained
ailment. Another report on January 28 featured a classified internal assessment of the Sri Lankan Defence Department, which held that the
commander of the national army through the last years of the civil war against
Tamil separatists, General Sarath Fonseka, was considered indispensable to the
war effort, which contradicts recent court testimony by Defence Secretary
on LankaENews came exactly six
months after a similar arson attack on the broadcast facilities of the popular
news and entertainment channel Siyatha. Those responsible for that incident are
yet to be identified.
calls on the Sri Lankan authorities
to respond to domestic and global expressions of concern over the pattern of
intimidation of independent media which continues long after the end of the
country’s civil war,” Park said.
President’s directive to the police to commence an immediate inquiry is
welcome, we greatly hope that this will not go the way of previous such
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
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