Armed men enter Colombo weekly press, set fire, warn employees
[TamilNet, Monday, 17 October 2005, 07:47 GMT]
A group of seven unidentified men, armed with batons and swords, entered the printing press of the English weekly, the Sunday Leader, published from Colombo at around 8:00 p.m. on Sunday and threatened the employees. The intruders set fire to bundles of papers. The editor of the weekly Mr. Lasantha Wickramathunga said that the manger of the press was assaulted was warned of dire consequences if he continued to print the paper. The Sunday Leader has been a critical voice towards the governments in Colombo from the time the paper started publication in the mid 90s.
The printing press is located near Maliban Junction on Katukurunduwatte Road.
The Free Media Movement (FMM) Monday issued the following press release:
"Free Media Movement condemns the arson attack, which took last night on printing press of the Sunday Leader and Irudina weeklies. This attack threatened not only press freedom but also free and fair election environment in the country. FMM as a co convener of Centre Monitoring Election Violence is very much concerned that violence against media should not be allowed to continue in the context of upcoming presidential election on 17th November.
"A group of seven eight persons armed with clubs and knives entered the premises of the printing press at Rathmalana, Colombo around 8.00 pm on 16th October 2005, threatened the manager of dire consequences if he continue to print the newspapers and set fire to bundles of returned newspapers. The workers were able to extinguish the fire thereby saving the printing machine, according to the management.
"News papers the Sunday Leader and Irudina are very critical towards the government and exponents of opposition political views. As a press freedom organisation that stands for media freedom as well as plurality and diversity of media FMM defends the rights of privately and publicly owned media emphasising the need for ethical journalism at all times.
"The Sunday Leader newspaper and its editor Mr. Lasantha Wikramatunga has been harassed and threatened many times during the last few years. FMM views this attack as a continuation of same trend and request the authorities to initiate an impartial inquiry in order to bring the suspects to book. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that media freedom prevails during the period running up to presidential election on 17th November."