Offices of anti-govt website in Sri Lanka set on fire

COLOMBO: A group of men broke into the offices of a website critical of Sri Lanka’s government and set fire to it Monday, a journalist from the publication said, adding that he suspected a government role in the attack.

Bennett Rupasinghe, news editor of LankaeNews.com, said the fire destroyed everything in the offices. He said the attackers could have been sent by the government as punishment for the website’s critical articles.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella denied the allegation.

“If they just say it is the government without an iota of evidence it is very unfair,” Rambukwella said.

He said authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze.

There have been a series of attacks against media workers and offices in Sri Lanka in the recent past but no arrests have been made. Last July, a media company whose owners were Opposition supporters was destroyed in a similar attack.

Prageeth Ekneligoda, a columnist for LankaeNews.com, disappeared a year ago and is suspected to have been abducted.

His wife wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon earlier this month, saying that the government has showed no interest in investigating the case. She said she suspected the government was complicit in her husband’s disappearance.

Media rights groups say Sri Lanka silences dissenting journalists with threats. Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006 and each case remains unsolved.


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