Sri Lanka editor stabbed in latest attack on media

The attack was similar to the killing two weeks ago of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga, who was also intercepted on his way to work by men on motorcyles.

Sri Lanka editor stabbed in latest attack on media

A Sri Lankan editor was stabbed in the face and beaten by a gang of assailants on motorcyles as he drove to work on Friday in the third assault on a journalist in the country this month.

Upali Thennakoon, editor of the Sinhalese language weekly newspaper Rivira, told Reuters his wife saved him from death by wrapping her arms around him until the attackers fled. She, too, was injured.

The attack was similar to the killing two weeks ago of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickramatunga, who was also intercepted on his way to work by men on motorcyles.

His murder came days after gunmen destroyed the main studio of MBC, Sri Lanka's largest private broadcaster. The two assaults drew international condemnation and calls for the government to protect journalists and prosecute their attackers.

This week in parliament, the government's chief whip, Urban Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, said nine journalists had been killed and 27 attacked since 2006.

Thennakoon described becoming the 28th after motorcyles blocked his way.

"While I was trying to enter the main road, a person came towards me and attacked by car's windscreen. Then others came closer to my car and started attacking me," he said from a hospital stretcher while he was being taken for a brain scan.

"They had a knife, iron rods, and sticks. They stabbed me, attacked me," Thennakoon said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered an immediate investigation, police spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police Ranjith Gunasekara said.

Rivira is considered one of the more neutral privately-owned papers in Sri Lanka, and that matters in a country where politics often get entangled with the media.

Sri Lanka has a long history of violence against journalists that rarely gets prosecuted, but Rajapaksa has vowed since Wickramatunga's killing to change that and arrests have already been made in the MBC case.

Many journalists have been kidnapped, harassed and beaten; some have been imprisoned under wartime government emergency regulations, and others have fled the country after being attacked as traitors in state-run media.

Human Rights Watch on Friday wrote a letter to Rajapaksa asking him to drop charges against journalists it said had been imprisoned illegally for politically-related charges.

On Thursday, the defence ministry said it had arrested a Tamil Tiger fighter who was caught with a falsified press identification card while trying to fly to Singapore.


Reuters

Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 15:41
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