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Hundreds protest over journalists' killings

More than 100 cases still unsolved, say activists

Hundreds protest over journalists' killings
Journalists and right activists stage a 'Black January' protest
ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
Sri Lanka

January 30, 2013

Over 200 journalists, lawmakers and rights activists including priests and nuns raised photographs of murdered journalists and called for action at a protest in Colombo on Tuesday. 

“The government should conduct proper investigations into the killings and attacks on all journalists and introduce a Right to Information Act without any further delay,” said Sunil Jayasekara, convener of Free Media Movement. 

“There were 138 cases of attacks on journalists and media institutes during past decade, and 17 journalists have been killed during the past seven years,” he said. “No one has been punished.”

Jayasekara said that in the last four years, an editor of an English language weekly, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was shot dead in his car in broad daylight in a high security zone; a private television station was attacked; and digital journalist and political cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda went missing two days before the general election and his office was set on fire.

Suspects in Wickrematunge's murder were released due to lack of evidence, Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said at a press conference recently.  

This month has been named 'Black January' by the Alliance of Media Organizations due to a high number of attacks.

“An unidentified group attacked the Udayan,  a Tamil newspaper on January 11, and the editor was attacked in 2012,” said Samanmali Gunasinghe, co-chairman of the Women for Rights organization.

“Justice should be fulfilled,” she said.

Legal experts at the protest called for an end to violence against the media and also an increase in transparency.

"People have a right to know about information on government expenditure,” said lawyer Srinath Perera.

But Media Ministry Secretary Charitha Herath said the introduction of a Right to Information Act could not be at the expense of national security.  

The government has denied any involvement in attacks carried out against journalists or media organizations.

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