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Media condemns arson on Sri Lankan agency

Catholic weekly editor wants government to look into series of attacks on journalists

Unidentified group set fire on Lankaenews.com office in Malabe Unidentified group set fire on Lankaenews.com office in Malabe
  • ucanews.com, Colombo
  • Sri Lanka
  • January 31, 2011
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Local media including a Catholic weekly have denounced the arson attack on Lanka-e-News office located in Malabe, Colombo district, saying it violated the freedom of expression.

“We strongly condemn the act. There must be the right of expression to spread the latest information to the people,” said Father Sagara Hettiarachchi, editor of Sinhalese Catholic weekly, Gnanartha Pradeepaya (Wisdom of light).

Benet Rupasinghe, news editor of lankaenews.com, said his office was set on fire at around 2.00 a.m. by a group of unidentified persons who destroyed everything in the office.

“We are a people’s website. There were some rare books which are more than 100 years old. It is a big damage worth over 2.5 million rupees,” Rupasinghe said. The library with 3,000 books and over 20-year-old newspapers were destroyed, he said.

The editor of the Sri Lankan news agency that runs English, Sinhala and Tamil news websites said the main office containing computer room and the library were totally damaged.

“It is not in a possible state to continue website operations,” he said.

Father Hettiarachchi told ucanews.com that local people still believe the government will find the culprits, despite the fact that there have been a series of attacks on media workers and news offices in Sri Lanka in the past with no arrests made.

Last week priests and journalists appealed to the United Nations to find Prageeth Ekneligoda, a Lanka-e-News journalist who disappeared on Jan. 24 last year. He had written about the country’s political situation, lawlessness, corruption and nepotism.

In Sri Lanka, 14 journalists including Christians have been murdered within the past two decades, with 12 of them in the past five years. Some of them have been imprisoned and many have left the country. Sirasa and Siatha media stations were attacked in last two years.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reportedly instructed the police to conduct an urgent inquiry into the latest arson.

Related reports
Bishops slam Lawlessness attack on media firm
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Attack on journalists slammed

SR13095.1639
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