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12 January, 2010 - Published 15:25 GMT

Govt. 'aware of' Lasantha killers

Media activists in Sri Lanka have vowed to continue protests until the media freedom is established in the war battered nation.

In a protest in Colombo to mark the first anniversary since the assassination of Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickramathunga, the activists accused the government of deliberately not taking action against murder suspects.

Sunil Jayasekara, secretary of Free Media Movement (FMM), said authorities have publicly stated that they are aware of those responsible for the killing.

"Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said he could not take action due to the atmosphere in the country although he knew who was behind the killing. The investigaters should question the defence secretary on this," he said.

Mr. Wickramatunga - a feisty government critic - was shot dead as he drove to work on 08 January 2009.

Attack on Sirasa

Although the murder case has been brought before the courts for 23 times, no suspect was ever produced during the past year, according to Ravaya newspaper.

Two days before the killing, the independent Sirisa TV station was ransacked by a group of gunmen.

Media Workers Trade Union Federation (MWTUF) echoed accusations by the FMM.

MWTUF general secretary Dharmasiri Lankapeli said both Mr. Rajapaksa and Minister Keheliya Rambukwella have publicly stated that the culprits will be revealed after the elections.

"Now the government is divided into two. Gen Sarath Fonseka who was the commander of the army while all these incidents happened is also pledging to reveal the culprits," he said.

Pointing out that media activists have been campaigning for press freedom for more than two decades, FMM Convenor Chulawansa Srilal said the activists have handed over their demands to all presidential candidates.