09/01/2007, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Targeted by the military, a journalist’s life is at risk

by Melani Manel Perera
Defence expert Iqbal Athas, denounces the military’s shadowy purchase of fighter planes. Police withdraw security guard and a colleague is threatened by army officer.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – A Sri Lankan investigative reporter is in serious danger after having written an article on the air force acquisition of second hand Ukrainian  Mig-27 at an exorbitant price.   The report is a well known Defence expert. After his revelations, published in the local Sunday Time on August 12, the police withdrew the removed the permanent security around his home without warning.  They security guards were put in place in 1998, following previous threats: at the same time a colleague of his who translated the piece into Sinhalese was visit by an Army Officer who threatened to kill him.  

 

According to Athas’s enquiry, Sri Lanka bought the second hand Mig jets, paying an unknown London based company.  After the report in the Sunday Time, the government in Kiev launched an investigation into the case.

 

Now press freedom organisations such as World Wide Press Freedom Organization and Reporters Without Borders, are warning the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, that “the head of state will be held personally responsible by the journalist community for anything that happens to Iqbal Athas and his colleagues”. Numerous Tamil and Sinhalese activists took to the streets of Colombo on August 30 in protest at this latest attempt by the government to silence the press.

 

 

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