3RD LEAD

Masked men burn Sunday Leader printing press

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 21 November 2007, 08:03 GMT]
A twelve-member group of masked men, Wednesday early morning around 2:15 forcibly entered the printing press of the English weekly papers Sunday Leader, Morning Leader and Irudina Sinhala weekly and set fire damaging printing machines and copies of newspapers printed ready for distribution. The Free Media Movement (FMM), a Colombo based media watch dog, condemning the act, noted that the Morning Leader editor has been very critical of Asia Tribune website, which according to the editor, works hand in hand with the paramilitary Pillayaan Group. The paper, which has been critical of the government, was scheduled to reveal details of horse-trading to buy off parliamentarians, this week.

The gang arrived in a Pajero vehicle had entered the printing press holding the security officer in its custody and had poured petrol on the printing machines and set fire.

The Fire Brigade extinguished the fire after about one and a half hours. The police on receipt of information set up road blockades at several places in the vicinity to apprehend the culprits fled in the same Pajero vehicle.

"The newspaper and its editor Mr. Lasantha Wikramatunga as well as Morning Leader Editor Sonali Samarasinghe have been harassed and threatened continuously during the last two years. All Leader publications are very critical towards the government and exponents of opposition political views," the Free Media Movement said.

"FMM hold authorities responsible for not being able to protect the printing house. The culture of impunity prevails in this country has prevented any meaningful inquiry into all acts of violence against media and journalists that has taken place under this government."

The government has failed miserably to uphold and maintain rule of law when peoples democratic and human rights are violated, the FMM further said urging the civil society and the political society to safeguard the free press in Sri Lanka.


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