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Sri Lanka 16 August 2005

Tamil-language TV news presenter and husband shot dead in Colombo

The murder of Tamil-language TV news presenter Relangi Sevaraja and her husband for unclear reasons on 12 August in Colombo must not go unpunished, Reporters Without Borders said today. Severaja worked for the state-owned Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC). She and her husband were also reportedly members of PLOTE, a Tamil political party that is a rival of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

"The police investigation must establish whether or she was killed because of her work as a journalist," the press freedom organisation said. "If the authorities do not identify who did it and their motives, all journalists with governmental news media, especially those who criticise the Tamil Tigers, will live in fear of being gunned down in the same way."

Sevaraja and her husband were shot dead inside a travel agency by unidentified gunmen who were able to get away afterwards. She was 45. Before joining the SLRC, she had worked from 1987 to 2000 for the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). While with the SLBC, she had presented a programme called Uthaya Darisanam that often criticised the Tamil Tigers.

The party in which she and her husband were activists, PLOTE, has often been accused by the Tamil Tigers of being a government-funded militia. PLOTE claims that dozens of its members have been killed by the LTTE despite the cease-fire.

Some local news media have blamed the LTTE for this double murder. The couple had an 18-month-old daughter. A Tamil website that supports the Tamil Tigers has suggested that their murder was linked to a financial dispute.

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