Reporters Without Borders today said it was shocked by an armed attack on Kumudu Champika Jayawardana, the editor of the E-thalay.org (http://www.ethalaya.org) news website, who was shot and wounded in the back as he was returning home by motorcycle on the evening of 30 October in Colombo.
The news website LankaeNews.com said Jayawardana, 29, was ambushed by two gunmen. “The two assailants has been waiting outside his home for half an hour before shooting him (...) A neighbour said one of his assailants wore a uniform similar to that used by the security forces.”
“This is another terrible blow to free expression in Sri Lanka, where journalists are subjected to unacceptable harassment,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is clear that Jayawardana was personally targeted. This is the first physical attack of this kind against a journalist in Colombo. Threats against journalists are frequent and it is vital that the police make every effort to establish the identity and motive of his assailants.”
The editor of LankaeNews told Reporters Without Borders he had been receiving threats for the past three months. “Many politicians and men close to the government threaten the media because of what they publish,” he said.
Launched on 10 October, E-thalay.org (http://www.ethalaya.org) is an offshoot of the Sirasa radio and TV network. It is already very popular, drawing 5.5 million visitors in the past three weeks.
“The government has been taking measures to censor independent news media,” Reporters Without Borders said. For example, the licences of five radio stations belong to the Asia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) were withdrawn on 2 November. One of Asia’s biggest media groups, ABC’s reports and editorials have often been critical of the government.
Sri Lanka was ranked 156th out of 169 countries in the 2007 world press freedom index. Reporters Without Borders supports the Sri Lankan news media and independent journalists who have decided to stage a protest to make the public aware of their plight.