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Sri Lanka 6 January 2009

Government urged to punish violence against independent media outlets after new attack

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned today’s pre-dawn attack by a dozen heavily-armed men that badly damaged the studios of the Maharaja Television/Broadcasting Network (MTV/MBC) in Pannipitiya, near Colombo, after charges that the network’s reporting of the war between the government and Tamil insurgents was not “patriotic” enough.

“Violence and threats against such privately-owned media outlets and journalists trying to impartially report on the conflict must stop,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The government must quickly find and punish those responsible for this latest attack and see the network is compensated.

“The attack seems to be because its coverage was not ‘patriotic’ enough. The network is one of the country’s few, and very popular, independent news sources. The incident recalls the November 2007 attack on the Leader Publication printing works, for which nobody has been punished.”

Today’s attackers threw grenades, set fire to the main control room and then left. Susil Kindelpitiya, news editor of Sirasa TV, which is part of the network, said some staff were roughed up.

The network has been criticised for not giving enough air-time to recent government victories over the rebels, with state-run media outlets accusing it of reporting a suicide attack in Colombo on 2 January, the day the army captured the rebel capital of Kilinochchi, in northern Sri Lanka.  A bomb was thrown at the network’s offices just after news of the government victory was broadcast.

The state-owned media has recently attacked MTV/MBC for supposedly being “unpatriotic,” which has forced some of its journalists to censor themselves or flee the country.




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