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Sri Lanka: Vicious attacks on media and killing of newspaper editor
Protests and solidarity action needed
ON 8 January, in broad daylight in Colombo, the prominent and respected editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was hit in the head by gunfire through his windscreen as his vehicle was stationary in traffic. He died in hospital three hours later. No-one was apprehended or has been found and held for this heinous crime.
Three days before this, the premises of a TV station that has given some objective reporting of recent carnage and human suffering in the war between the right-wing government and the Tamil Tigers separatists, was raided and wrecked.
Thugs held staff captive while all the vital equipment was destroyed. Even though the attack lasted a full half an hour, the perpetrators got away from the premises without hindrance.
These violent attacks, undoubtedly with government collusion, have been aimed at silencing any media which is critical of the Rajapakse government, especially over the war which is still raging. One British newspaper has spoken of casualties "on the scale of Gaza".
The president himself, Mahinda Rajapakse, has taken on the portfolio of media minister to clamp down on objective, critical reporting. Now his rotten, war-mongering government has adopted the most extreme measures to prevent people like Lasantha from exposing the corrupt practices of himself and his clan. (At present there are four Rajapakse brothers in the government!)
Amnesty International reported last November on the killing of at least ten media employees since 2006. There have been frequent protests by journalists and other media personnel against their persecution. Lasantha even suggested more journalists than opposition politicians were being killed by the regime because the party leaders had not been raising their voices.
Roland Buerk of the BBC says: "The government has been accused of encouraging the violence, by branding reporters as critical rebel-sympathisers and enemies of the state".
Sri Lankan trade union and opposition leaders held a public protest on 9 January and are calling for world-wide condemnation of this latest brutal killing.
The International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have taken up the issue but stronger action is needed.
Over 10,000 mourners attended the funeral of Lasantha Wickrematunge on Monday 12 January.
The Civil Monitoring Committee, a body which has exposed hundreds of cases of cover-ups in relation to extra-judicial kidnappings and killings in Sri Lanka, is calling for messages of condemnation to be sent to the Sri Lankan government and demands to be made for an independent inquiry.
They are also calling for loud protests to be made outside Sri Lankan embassies worldwide. The day proposed is on14 January.
The United Socialist Party (CWI, Sri Lanka) is at the forefront of protests and campaigns against the war, for press freedom, for the right of self-determination of the Tamil-speaking people and for an end to the present Sinhala chauvinist and dictatorial government. It has consistently campaigned for a united struggle of Sinhala and Tamil workers and poor people against imperialism and capitalism, with socialist policies.
In doing so, the lives and freedom of its members and supporters are, at present, constantly in danger. Any financial support to help with their defence and with the campaigning work of the party is very welcome. Donations can be made to Campaign Sri Lanka.
- Donate online (add the words 'Campaign Sri Lanka' to the comment box) or send cheques to Campaign Sri Lanka c/o Committee for a Workers' International, PO Box 3688, London, Britain, E11 1YE
- Emails for protests about the Lasantha killing and attacks on press freedom: President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse firstname.lastname@example.org
- Secretary of Defence, Public Security, Law and Order, Gotabhaya Rajapakse email@example.com
- Copies to firstname.lastname@example.org