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Journalists protest 'Black January'

Demand justice against those responsible for many attacks on colleagues

Journalists staged a “Black January” protest attacks against media personnel in Colombo Journalists staged a “Black January” protest attacks against media personnel in Colombo
  • ucanews.com reporter, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • January 26, 2012
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Journalists took to the streets yesterday to protest a string of murders and attacks on their colleagues and to urge the government to bring those responsible to justice.

More than 100 people gathered at the Lipton Circle in Colombo to demand an end to the attacks which many believe is part of a campaign to clamp down on press freedom. It was organized by the Alliance of Media Organizations.

“We won’t stop our struggle until the government brings those responsible before a court,” said Gnanasiri Kottigoda, acting president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association.

He said media associations had decided to hold what they have termed a “Black January” protest annually on January 25 as many of the crimes perpetrated against journalists have taken place during the month.

Among these crimes was the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, an outspoken editor of the Sunday Leader, in January 2009 and the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a political columnist who went missing in January 2010.

The protest was to be held in front of Colombo Fort railway station but was forced move to avoid a confrontation with pro-government media groups who were staging a counter-protest against them.

Anglican priest Marimuthupillai Sathivel who joined the protest said the attacks on the media are futile since it has support from the people, and warned against any cover-ups.

“Years have passed; we urge the government to conduct thorough investigations into these attacks which have only been against those who stand for justice,” he said.

The government has repeatedly denied any cover-ups and said that it continues to investigate the crimes.

Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan journalists have been killed since the beginning of 2006.

According to the annual World Press Freedom Index compiled by Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, Sri Lanka was ranked 163rd out of 178 countries in 2011, down from 158th in 2010.

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