Outspoken Journalist Killed in Sri Lanka

Yesterday morning, a brave Sri Lankan journalist paid the ultimate price for freedom of expression.  Lasantha Wickramatunga, the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, was shot by unidentified gunmen  while on his way to work.  He died a few hours later of his injuries.  The Sunday Leader newspaper is known in Sri Lanka for its articles exposing political corruption in privatization deals and for drawing attention to human rights abuses in connection with the recent upsurge in fighting between the government and the opposition Tamil Tigers.

This isn’t the first time that the Sunday Leader and its staff have come under attack.  In 2006, Mr. Wickramatunga was threatened with arrest over an article critical of the president.  In 2007, the printing presses of the Leader group of publications were attacked by 10 armed men who threatened employees and set fire to some of the equipment.

Mr. Wickramatunga’s murder occurred just two days after the privately owned MVC/MTV television studios were ransacked by a gang of thugs.  MVC/MTV had also been critical of the government.

At least 14 journalists or other media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka over the past three years.  More than 20 journalists have left the country due to death threats.  Others have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and disappeared while in custody of the security forces.

The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has publicly condemned the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga and directed the Police to investigate his killing.  However, the Police have yet to find the killers of any of the other murdered journalists.  What hope is there that they’ll be any more effective in this case?  Will we see more assassinations like this in the days to come?

Please take a few minutes out of your day to email President Rajapaksa (priu@presidentsoffice.lk or modadm@sltnet.lk) and Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya (slembassy@slembassyusa.org ). Tell them an independent investigation into Mr. Wickramatunga’s murder and the other attacks on journalists is urgently needed now.  His killers must be found and tried.  Otherwise, I may have more stories like this one to report in future.

* This report comes from Amnesty’s country specialist on Sri Lanka, Jim McDonald.

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21 thoughts on “Outspoken Journalist Killed in Sri Lanka

  1. The president's e-mail address is not valid. Here's the error:

    :
    Remote host said: 550 Bad destination mailbox address – No such user at that domain

  2. David – Thanks so much for letting us know about the bad email address. We will look into this and post a corrected email for the president soon.

  3. The president’s e-mail address is not valid. Here’s the error:

    :
    Remote host said: 550 Bad destination mailbox address – No such user at that domain

  4. David – Thanks so much for letting us know about the bad email address. We will look into this and post a corrected email for the president soon.

  5. I was about to shoot an email but will wait. Will you notify me when the pres's address is up? Thanks;)

  6. I was about to shoot an email but will wait. Will you notify me when the pres’s address is up? Thanks;)

  7. In Mr. Wickramatunga's own words, from an editorial he wrote to be published in the event of suspicious or violent death:

    "No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last….

    People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted."

  8. In Mr. Wickramatunga’s own words, from an editorial he wrote to be published in the event of suspicious or violent death:

    “No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last….

    People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted.”

  9. this had been a bad thing to do because when u get older your kids is going to do some thing to you

  10. this had been a bad thing to do because when u get older your kids is going to do some thing to you

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  12. Pingback: Sri Lankan editor’s killers still at large | Human Rights Now - Amnesty International USA Blog

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