South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

By Nabeela Hussain, Supun Dias

Media personnel of several media organizations and civil society groups yesterday staged a protest campaign at the Lipton circus against the attack on the Lankaenews website on Monday.  The protestors asked the people to take to

Protect democracy:

the streets as their right to information and the rights of the media were being suppressed. The organizations also alleged that the media had been attacked in January for the past two years and that this January was no exception.

Media organizations said several journalists had been killed and five media organizations set on fire but no action had been taken by the government.

Chandana Sirimalwatte of the Media Against Suppression (MAS) said fingers were being pointed at the government and challenged it to prove if it was innocent by revealing those behind the attack and brining them to justice. “We ask the government and the media minister to step down if they cannot protect us and democracy,” Mr. Sirimalwatte said.

New Left Front Leader, Dr. Wickramabhu Karunarathne said this was not the first attack on the media and that the government had not reacted to it. “What happened in Tunisia and what is about to happen in Egypt will take place in Sri Lanka as well,” he said.

Organizations present at the protest said this would only stop if the people together with the media, political and civil society groups come together to protest the government’s inability to protect democracy.

Meanwhile, Police yesterday claimed it arrested one suspect in connection with the attack on LankaeNews office in Malabe while they were on the lookout for another suspect.

“The suspect is from Wellampitiya and belongs to a gang that conducts criminal acts on contracts”, Nugegoda Division SSP Deshabandu Tennakoon said.

“The other suspect who is from One arrested in Lanka e News attack: Police the same area had managed to flee following the arrest of his accomplice. We went to his house but he had managed to escape from police”, he said.

According to an employee of LankaeNews no one has witnessed the arsonists entering the premises early on Monday.

Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya appointed a team led by a DIG to probe the fire and investigate the matter.

Earlier President Mahinda Rajapaksa instructed IGP Balasuriya to conduct an urgent inquiry into the attack on the Lanka E-News office. The Thalangama police are investigating the incident under the directions of Greater Colombo DIG Daya Samaraweera. Bennet Rupasinghe, News Editor of Lanka e News said the crime was committed by a group that was not pleased with news reported by them as the site continuously criticized them with proof.

Computers, telephones, fax machines and the two photocopiers in the office were completely damaged due to the fire. In addition a library with rare books was completely destroyed by the fire.

“LankaeNews was using a house for rent and we did not have any private security personnel as we could not afford to do so. The web site is currently running but we are trying to at least publish two stories a day and we are now in the process of moving to a new place during the next few days”, he said.

U.S. Embassy concerned over Lanka-e-News attack

The U.S. Embassy in Colombo yesterday expressed deep concern over the attack on the Lanka-e-News office in Malabe.

In a statement, the embassy said: regardless of who is responsible for this incident, such violence directed against a media institution silences voices, further threatens freedom of expression, and undermines democracy throughout the country.

“We understand President Rajapaksa has announced an inquiry into the incident.  We urge that the investigation be conducted quickly and fairly and that all the perpetrators be brought to justice” the statement added.

Source: The Daily Mirror – 02.02.2011