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Amnesty International Calls for Investigation into Sri Lankan Newspaper Editor's Shooting Death

WASHINGTON -  Amnesty International urges
the government of Sri Lanka to publicly condemn the shooting of Lasantha
Wickramatunga, editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader newspaper,
and other attacks on the media. The human rights organization calls on
Sri Lankan authorities to launch an independent investigation into the
incident and other reported attacks on journalists.

Mr Wickramatunga was shot Thursday morning
by unidentified gunmen while traveling in Mount Lavinia, Colombo, and rushed
to Kalubowila hospital where he died.  His newspaper, the Sunday
Leader has carried a number of articles exposing political interference
and corruption in privatization deals. Sunday Leader commentators
have also drawn attention to human rights abuses in the context of intensified
fighting.

This is not the first time that the Sunday
Leader and its staff have come under attack: in 2007, the printing
presses at Leader group of Publications were attacked by 10 armed
men who threatened employees and set fire to some of the equipment and
the newspaper that had just been printed.  In 2006, Lasantha Wickramatunga
was threatened with arrest under anti-terrorist laws over a story criticizing
the president.

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The shooting comes just two days after the
privately owned MVC/MTV television studios in Colombo were ransacked by
a gang of attackers who used claymore bombs to damage property.  

At least 14 media workers have been unlawfully
killed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of 2006. Others have been arbitrarily
detained, tortured and allegedly disappeared while in the custody of security
forces. More than 20 journalists have left the country in response to death
threats.

To date, Amnesty International is unaware
of any investigation that has led to the arrest and prosecution of those
believed responsible for the killing of journalists and other media workers.
 The lack of any thorough investigations into unlawful killings means
that these kinds of attacks can continue with impunity.
 
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people – no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization.

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