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Sri Lanka 4 April 2002

A journalist’s family threatened

In a letter sent to the president of Sri Lanka, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Reporters sans frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) expressed its concern about threats made to Sarath Chinthaka, journalist with the English-language newspaper Daily Mirror and the Sinhala daily Lankadeepa, and his family. "In the current context, as peace negotiations are occurring, it is essential that the police discover what political motivations lie behind these attempts to intimidate this journalist," said Robert Ménard, general secretary of RSF. The press freedom watchdog also asked the president to do everything in her power to ensure that the investigation by the Wattala police succeeds in discovering those who ordered these threats.

According to information obtained by RSF, an attack was made by three armed individuals against the home of Sarath Chinthaka, correspondent in Wattala (north of Colombo) with the English-language newspaper Daily Mirror and the Sinhala daily Lankadeepa, on the night of 30 March 2002. The three masked men entered the house and threatened his wife, who was alone with their child, demanding that she give them a tape containing a controversial speech made by president Chandrika Kumaratunga. Even though the woman denied the existence of such a tape, the intruders broke open a cabinet and stole seven or eight cassettes and a tape recorder. They then threatened to wait in front of the house for Chinthaka to return. His wife managed to get to a police station and file a complaint. Even though Sarath Chinthaka says he does not have a copy of this speech, he has received several telephone threats.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga made a speech in January 2002, in Jaela (a town near Wattala), in which she said she could end the cease-fire between the government and the Tamil Tigers by just saying so. This statement was widely criticized in Sri Lanka and in other countries.

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