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Last updated: 26 January, 2009 - Published 13:46 GMT
 
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Govt. 'guilty until proved otherwise'
 
Protest in Colombo against the attack on Rivira editor, Upali Tennakoon (photo: Elmo Fernando)
Many leading journalists have already left Sri Lanka due to kiilings, attacks, threats and intimidation on journalits and media institutions

Journalists, trade unionists and civil rights activists accuse the Sri Lanka government of being responsible for recent spate of attacks on media.

Activists have braved the climate of fear to protest in Colombo against the assault on chief editor of Rivira weekly, Upali Tennakoon.

Mr. Tennakoon was attacked and stabbed by an unidentified group on Friday. Police say no arrests have been made so far.

Chulawansa Srilal, the convenor of Free Media Movement (FMM) said President Mahinda Rajapaksa should take the responsibility.

President 'responsible'

"This attack comes under the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Therefore, he should take the responsibility as the defence minister," Mr. Srilal said.

 This attack comes under the Mahinda Rajapaksa government. Therefore, he should take the responsibility as the defence minister
 
FMM convenor, Chulawansa Srilal

A new interim administration was appointed to run the FMM after former office bearers tendered resignations last week.

FMM secretary, Sunil Jayasekara said it is the responsibility of the government to clear its name if not guilty.

"There should be a wider investigation on every attack on journalists and media institutions in recent years and the government cannot escape the blame until suspects are brought to the books," he said.

Trade unionists and human rights activists echoed similar views.

General Secretary of Lanka Teachers' Union (LTU), Joseph Stalin, said the attackers are currently targeting journalists who reveal trade union actions.

Intimidation campaign 'successful'

"The killers have already been successful. Many journalists have already left the country," he said.

Protest in Colombo against the attack on Rivira editor, Upali Tennakoon (photo: Elmo Fernando)
Activists brave the climate of fear to protest the latest attack

Sunanda Deshapriya and Uvindu Kurukulasuriya of FMM, Sanath Balasuriya and Poddala Jayantha of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and Upul Joseph Fernando, Rathnapala Gamage and Chevan Daniel are among the journalists who have left Sri Lanka in the last few weeks.

Iqbal Athas, Keith Noyahr, Namal Perera, Anurudhdha Lokuhapuaarachchi and Nadaraja Guruparan have also left the island.

The Sri Lankan media has reported that these journalists have left the country due to the insecure situation in the country.

Human rights activist and attorney at law Nimalka Fernando said warned of serious attempts to silence the voice for democracy in Sri Lanka.

The editor of Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickramatunga was shot dead in Colombo on 8 January.

 The killers have already been successful. Many journalists have already left the country
 
Trade union leader, Joseph Stalin

Two day earlier, MTV-MBC station was ransacked with a group of attackers who were reportedly armed with claymore mines, a weapon only available to LTTE and armed forces in Sri Lanka.

Defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has said that investigations have revealed that the attack was carried by the MTV station itself. But police say the investigations are still underway.

Protesters also accused the police, which comes under the purview of Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, of being inactive and inefficient to investigate the attacks on media.

 
 
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