28 August, 2007 - Published 12:38 GMT

'Restore' Iqbal Athas' security

Media watchdogs in Sri Lanka have called upon the authorities to restore the security of Sunday Times journalist Iqbal Athas.

In a letter to the Defence Secretary, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) has reminded him that the Defence columnists life is in danger as a result of authorities removing his security last week.

In his weekly columns Athas has exclusively revealed details of the purchase of MiG-27 fighter jets by Sri Lanka authorities from Ukraine.

MiG-27 fighter jets

The Ukrainian government, says Athas, has launched an investigation into the alleged high level corruption while purchasing the fighter jets which was supposed to be a government to government arms procurement.

An intermediary company known as Belimissa Holdings registered in UK was named as the beneficiary of the purchase though the company cannot be traced in UK Company Register, according to Athas' revelations.

The Sri Lanka government announced a parliamentary probe into the alleged corruption of the MiG-27 deal.

The government has withdrawn the journalist's security, provided since last year after a security assessment, a day after the details appeared in Lankadeepa Sinhala daily.

Protest near Athas' house

A protest organised in front of his house led by a provincial council member of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) called on Athas to stop revealing 'sensitive' security information.

SLWJA Secretary General, Poddala Jayantha, described Monday's protest as an 'systematic intimidation'.

"We view this protest as an attempt to stop his investigative journalism," Jayantha told BBC Sandeshaya.

Athas' regular defence column did not appear on this week's Sunday Times.

The journalist fears for his life and his family is also in danger as result of government's sudden decision, the newspaper said.