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Sri Lanka accused of blocking slain editor probe

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka » A media rights group on Saturday accused the Sri Lankan government of blocking an investigation into the killing of a newspaper editor two years ago, saying it’s indifference in solving the crime had made it an accomplice.

On the second anniversary of his death, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said Lasantha Wickrematunge’s killers remained at large and accused Sri Lanka’s government of stymieing an investigation.

Wickrematunge, editor of The Sunday Leader newspaper, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen while driving to work on Jan. 8, 2009. The paper had been critical of the government’s conduct of the decades-long war against the now-defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, and reported on alleged human rights violations and government corruption.

"Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the fact that the Sri Lankan government is doing nothing to solve this murder and in fact is clearly preventing the truth from coming to light," the group said in a statement. "By blocking the investigation and by fostering a climate of impunity and indifference, the government has become an accomplice."

Police said Saturday the case was still be investigated.

"It is not possible to make immediate conclusions in a planned killing like this, but we will conduct a systematic investigation and arrest the culprits," police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody told The Associated Press.

He pointed out that other legal systems around world sometimes take six to eight years to solve murders.

Reporters Without Borders said Wickrematunge’s killing had dealt a major blow to media freedom in Sri Lanka.

Media rights groups say Sri Lanka is among the most dangerous places for dissenting journalists.

Reporters Without Borders has said 25 journalists were killed in Sri Lanka over the past 10 years. Some have been abducted and remain missing, while others have fled the country after being beaten up or threatened.

Wickrematunge’s widow, Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge, said in the Reporters Without Borders statement that her husband was a journalist "who fought fearlessly for the freedom of the press and relentlessly pursued what he believed was right."

"It is a sad tribute to Sri Lankas growing indifference to democratic principles, justice and fair play … that even 24 months after his murder there has been no conclusion to Lasanthas murder investigation," she said.


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