Arson Attack on Online News Portal Office in Sri Lanka

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.

 

According

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).

 

It has

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.

 

“We are

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.

 

Prageeth

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

Gotabaya Rajapakse.

 

The attack

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.

 

“The IFJ

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.

 

“While the

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

investigations”.

 

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

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IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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