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Sri Lanka 14 September 2007

Police question journalist who said senior official’s son imported luxury car

Reporters Without Borders is outraged that the police today interrogated Indika Sakalasooriya of the Colombo-based newspaper The Nation about a report that the son of a senior ruling party official imported a British-made luxury car without paying customs duty. The police asked him to reveal his sources.

"After last month’s death threats against investigative journalist Iqbal Athas, this new case shows that it is getting more and more difficult for the media to do their job in Sri Lanka," the press freedom organisation said. "We call on the president to publicly condemn the interrogation of The Nation’s journalist. Protection of sources is essential for investigative journalism."

Police from the Criminal Investigation Department went to The Nation’s offices this morning and politely asked Sakalasooriya to identify his sources for the story about the Aston Martin imported by a senior official’s son, who was not named. The report included a photo of the car, worth more than 40 million rupees. The newspaper discovered that the car was circulating in Colombo with an escort from the security services.

Athas has meanwhile stopped writing investigative articles on military matters for the Sunday Times. The government is still refusing to provide him with protection, despite the death threats he received. Indeed, without naming him, the government newspaper Dinamina accused him on 6 September of being in the pay of Norway’s "pro-Tamil Tiger" government.

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