Sri Lanka 'blocked murder inquiry'

Media watchdog accuses government of blocking investigation into killing of newspaper editor two years ago.

    Lasantha Wickrematunge had been critical of the government's war against the Tamil Tigers [Reuters]

    A media rights group has accused the Sri Lankan government of blocking an investigation into the killing of a newspaper editor two years ago, saying its indifference in solving the crime had made it an accomplice.

    Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based organisation, said Lasantha Wickrematunge's killers remained at large as of Saturday - the second anniversary of his death - and accused Sri Lanka's government of actively preventing the truth being exposed.

    "Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the fact that the Sri Lankan government is doing nothing to solve this murder and in fact is clearly preventing the truth from coming to light," the group said in a statement.

    "By blocking the investigation and by fostering a climate of impunity and indifference, the government has become an accomplice."

    Wickrematunge, the editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assailants while driving to work on January 8, 2009.

    Critical reporting

    The paper had been critical of the government's conduct of the decades-long war against the now-defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, and reported on alleged human rights violations and government corruption.

    Police said the case was still being investigated.

    "It is not possible to make immediate conclusions in a planned killing like this, but we will conduct a systematic investigation and arrest the culprits," Prishantha Jayakody, a police spokesman, told The Associated Press news agency.

    He pointed out that other legal systems around world sometimes take six to eight years to solve murders.

    Reporters Without Borders said Wickrematunge's killing had dealt a major blow to media freedom in Sri Lanka.

    The rights group has said 25 journalists were killed in Sri Lanka over the past 10 years. Some have been abducted and remain missing, while others have fled the country after being beaten up or threatened.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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