Audit of Bainimarama’s Controversial Payout May Not Be Made Public

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Auditor General Eroni Vatuloka has said an investigation report into a payout of $184,740 to interim PM Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama will be ready by the end of February.  The payout was reportedly for leave he said he was owed in 1978.  Mr. Vatuloka normally reports directly to Parliament, who would then make the report public.  However, under the interim regime, the reports have gone to the interim finance minister.  Currently the interim finance minister is Bainimarama.

Mr. Vatuloka began investigations in to the payout in July when the payout was made public.  Bainimarama was back-paid for 698 days, totaling $20,406.71.  At the time Bainimrama referred all questions to the army chief-of-staff, Colonel Mohammed Aziz.  Colonel Aziz denied it was a payout and said 40 officers who were seconded since the 2006 coup received similar treatment.  He said it was unfortunate Bainimarama was not paid the money until he was interim Prime Minister.

Professor Wadan Narsey has expressed concerns over the lack of transparency of Fiji’s interim government.  Narsey said, “A terribly loud question has to be asked: Why are our corporate bodies, our senior accounting firms, and our employers’ federations not demanding that the Auditor General and the Interim Government must release the audit reports to the public?”

It is unclear at this point whether the final auditor’s report will be made public.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Times – PM Audit – 10 February 2009

Fiji Times – Audit report not for public – 10 February 2009

HRW: New Bangladesh Government Should Reform Human Rights

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – International human rights group, Human Rights Watch, urged the new Awami League government of Bangladesh to reform human rights policies. In the past there have been reports of abuses by Bangladeshi police and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite security force that rights groups hold accountable for extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and torture.

Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch Asia director, said, Bangladesh’s “ new government has a large majority and a public hungry for reform …We look forward to the government using the strong mandate the prime minister and her party have obtained to tackle the very serious abuses that Bangladeshis face at the hands of the security forces and others.”

A human rights group told APF, security forces in Bangladesh unlawfully shot or tortured to death at least 149 people in 2008 when the country was ruled by an army-backed government.

Reportedly, 137 people were shot dead by police and the RAB, and 12 were tortured to death. The Bangladesh government said the killings occurred when suspects resisted arrest or were caught in crossfire between criminals and security forces. A surge in “crossfire” deaths began in 2004 when the then-democratically elected government set up the RAB to stem rising crime. Since RAB’s inception, the elite force has been accused of killing more than 540 people, mainly crime suspects and outlawed Maoists.

However, Odhikar, a Bangladeshi human rights group, said the killings were unlawful. The organization said, “What worries Odhikar and others is the absolute impunity enjoined with extrajudicial killings … None of the killings are investigated or perpetrators made to account.”

When an army-backed government took over in January 2007 after a state of emergency was imposed, people were killed, elections were cancelled, and press freedom curbed.

On December 29 2008, the secular Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina, who had served previously as a prime minister, won the elections. Adams said, “How the government responds to recommendations for human rights progress at the Human Rights Council will be an early test for the new government.”

For more information, please see:


APF – Bangladesh Security Forces Illegally Kill 149 in 2008: Rights Group -17 January 2009

Daily Star –149 Killed in Extra-judicial Action in ’08 – 8 January 2009

HRW – Bangladesh: New Government Should Act on Rights – 29 January 2009

UN Reviews China’s Human Rights Record

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Report, Asia

BEIJING, China
– The United Nations Human Rights Council opened its fourth session of the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva last week.  The session will examine the human rights records of 16 countries, including Germany, Canada, China, Cuba, Mexico, Russia and Saudi Arabia.  In a hearing, while European delegations called on Beijing to end the death penalty and halt torture in prisons.  Many Asian and African countries praised China’s achievements in the promotion and protection of human rights, and said China is an example for them to follow.

However, days before UN’s review on China’s Human Rights record, the officers stationed outside a government building in Beijing took away at least eight people.  They are members of a group of 30 who had traveled to the capital from around the country, protesting various problems involving local corruption.  One member carried a banner says “Safeguard human rights. I love China”.  Li Fengxian, a gray-haired woman, held up a sign with the character for “injustice”.  Li, 65, said she has spent years fighting officials in her village who give away a poverty allowance allotted to her family to other officials.

The incident is not unusual.  These people often come with stacks of documents and pictures of their loved ones.  Most are detained by police and sent home.  “My goal today is to defeat corruption with the law and win some justice,” said Chen Xinchun, a 40-year-old farmer from Sichuan province. He has come to Beijing five times trying to plead with the Cabinet, the courts and the public security bureau for an investigation into the death of his mother at 20 years ago.  Chen said someone connected with local police beat his mother to death.

China presented a report on human rights in the country to the United Nations.  In the report, China said, “The international community should respect the principle of the indivisibility of human rights and attach equal importance to civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development.”

China’s ambassador, Li Baodong, defended his country’s rights record to the council.  He rejected suggestions from Western countries that China uses torture and jails dissidents and insisting China’s policies are guided by the rule of law. “China is the world’s largest developing country. We are fully aware of our difficulties and challenges in the field of human rights,” he said.

Some human rights activists were angered by the report, stating China had failed to address key concerns such as persecution on religious and ethnic grounds and press censorship.  The report omits any references to abuses that are occurring across China, according to Amnesty International.  It fails to mention the unrest in Tibet last year, the crackdown on Uighurs in the western Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and the persecution of religious followers, including members of Falun Gong, the London- based group said.

For more information, please see
:

AP – China hammers dissent despite looming UN review – 07 February 2009

AP – China police take away citizens airing grievances – 06 February 2009

Reuters – China human rights record stirs struggle at home – 08 February 2009

Reuters – China says protects human rights, West voices doubt – 09 February 2009

Wall Street Journal – Human Rights, the U.N. and China – 09 February 2009

XinHua – Foreign Ministry: UN human rights review important to China – 05 February 2009

UN, Commonwealth Team to Review Political Situation in Fiji

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – A United Nations and Commonwealth Joint Technical Team arrives in Fiji today to begin a fact-finding mission of the political situation.

The UN and Commonwealth has decided to act together after receiving a request to mediate an “inclusive, independent and time-bound political dialogue process.” The team consists of Mari Yamashita and Alex Grzybowski from the United Nations and Juliet Solomon and Sabhita Raju from the Commonwealth.

As part of its agenda, the Team will meet with members of Fiji’s interim Government as well as key stakeholders.

The goal of the fact-finding mission is to facilitate Fiji’s return to democratic rule through elections. Meanwhile, Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has been unwilling to relinquish power or set a date for those elections.

In 2006, Bainimarama led the bloodless coup of Fiji’s Federal government. Since then, he has promised to restore stability and democracy, but has yet to step down as Interim Prime Minister.

Ousted Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, says he looks forward to meeting with representatives from the UN and Commonwealth.

According to the Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Fiji, the Technical Team will remain in Fiji until Saturday the 14th.

For more information, please see:
Fiji Times – UN, Commonwealth to follow up on technical missions – 09 February 2009

Radio New Zealand International – United Nations and Commonwealth joint technical team in Fiji – 08 February 2009

Fiji Times – UN to gather data on Fiji – 08 February 2009

Another No Confidence Motion Filed in French Polynesia

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PAPEETE, Tahiti – A no confidence motion was filed this week and signed by fifteen French Polynesia Assembly representatives from three political groups.  The groups are trying to put an end to five years of chronic instability, citing the chronic political instability that has had a severe impact on the local economy, political behaviors from the past, and the wish to form a majority exempt from political division.

The motion names pro-Tahiti independence leader Oscar Temaru as candidate to replace Gaston Tong Sang as Tahiti’s president.  The assembly will vote next week on the motion, which would topple the nine-month-old Tong Sang government.  It would also mark the fourth government under Temaru’s power since 2004 and become the eighth government Tahiti has had over the past five years.

The motion is the work of Temaru’s Union for Democracy coalition, Gaston Flosse’s pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy Tahoera’a Huiraatira party, and Jean-Christophe Bouissou’s pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy Rautahi party.  The three leaders claim to represent 31 of the assembly’s 57 seats, or a three-vote majority.  The 31 seats would give Temaru the biggest majority of any of the eight governments since 2004.

The no confidence motion ended more than two months of speculation, political maneuvering, and political summits involving Tahiti’s four key political leaders.

For more information, please see:
Tahiti Presse – Tong Sang claims Temaru’s only interest is “to block Flosse” – 05 February 2009

Pacific Islands Report – Another No Confidence Motion Filed in Tahiti – 06 February 2009

Fiji Times – Polynesia Vote – 07 February 2009

UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari ‘s Visit to Myanmar

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar – UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited Myanmar last week. During the trip, he met with detained National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and with government ministers and diplomats.  However, he was not granted an audience with Senior General Than Shwe, the top military ruler of Myanmar.

Junta has detained Suu Kyi for 13 years.  She told Mr. Gambari that she would only hold talks with the junta if all political prisoners are released and the results of 1990 elections won by her National League for Democracy are recognized.  Last August, Suu Kyi declined Mr. Gambari’s visit despite being held under house arrest since May 2003.  Analysts believe her snub was to show displeasure at the acceptance by the United Nations of planned 2010 elections in Myanmar.

NLD members also said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should not visit until all Burma’s political prisoners are free.  According to the U.S. State Department, currently more than 2,000 political prisoners are held in Myanmar’s jails.

Junta accused her of setting unrealistic conditions for talks.  “A dialogue will be practical and successful only if the discussions are based on the reality of prevailing conditions,” Information Minister Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan said in a statement carried by state media yesterday. “There will be no success if it is based on unrealistic conditions.”

Mr. Gambari asked Myanmar’s Prime Minister Thein Sein to release political prisoners, to have a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and to make the military-guided political process inclusive for all.  However, Thein Sein told Gambari that the UN should press for the lifting of international sanctions to promote political improvements in the country.  “If the U.N. wants to see economic development and political stability, the U.N. should first try to remove economic sanctions and visa bans,” was the prime minister’s response, according to state television.

For more information, please see:

BBC – UN envoy’s Burma trip criticized – 04 February 2009

Bloomberg – Myanmar Junta Calls Suu Kyi’s Conditions for Talks Unrealistic – 05 February 2009

New York Times – Opposition Leader in Myanmar Expresses Frustration With U.N. – 04 February 2009

Reuters – Myanmar’s Suu Kyi meets UN envoy, sticks to terms – 02 February 2009

Afghan Girls Fear for their Lives in Attending School

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia


KABUL, Afghanistan
– Violence has been occurring against Afghan female students to prevent them from going to school.  Men and even young boys intimidate girls through the use of harassment, sexual assault, murder and acid attacks.  They have even gone so far as burning school buildings and killing teachers.  Not surprisingly, this violence has had a severe effect on school attendance.

“A lot of my classmates and other female students don’t care for school anymore because they fear the boys’ harassment and kidnappings,” said Maryam Mansoor, an 18 year old female student who quit school.

Maryam’s father urged her to quit school in concern for her safety.  “The security situation is worsening every day.”  He continues, “I am not against my girls completing their education, but their safety is more important.  I don’t want them to study outside anymore.”

According to Reuters, the degree of violence varies according to geography.  In rural areas, “the Taliban have burned down schools, killed female students and teachers and attacked schoolgirls by throwing acid in their faces.”  On the other hand, in Kabul, schoolgirls suffer from abuse, sexual harassment and kidnappings.

Under Taliban rule, females were prohibited from going to school and work and were not able to leave their house unless accompanied by a male relative.

Since the Taliban was removed from power in 2001, the Afghan government has tried to improve access to education for all.  As a result, about 6.2 million Afghans are currently in school, two million of which are girls, compared with less than one million males while the Taliban was in power.

According to the Ministry of Education, spokesman Asif Nang reported that “in the past eight months, around 138 students and teachers have lost their lives and another 172 have been wounded in criminal and terror attacks.”  Moreover, “about 651 schools have become inactive mostly due to insecurity and another 122 school buildings have been blown up or burned down.”

The Ministry of Education requests that “Afghan and foreign forces including elders to get involved and take extra measures in providing security for all students and teachers.”

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Afghan Girls Return to School After Acid Attacks – 24 January 2009

CNN – Afghan Girls Maimed Vow to go to School – 23 January 2009

Reuters – Harassment Forces Afghan Girls Out of School – 28 January 2009

Bangladesh to Prosecute War Criminals

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

DHAKA, Bangladesh – The United States government welcomed the Bangladesh government’s proposal to hold a war crimes tribunal.  The tribunal will prosecute war crimes committed during the 1971 war for independence from Pakistan.

United States Ambassador in Dhaka, James F. Moriarty said, “The trials of war criminals are being held in different countries and Bangladesh has to decide on the matter after taking experiences from those countries.”

On January 29, the Bangladesh parliament unanimously adopted a resolution seeking trial of war criminals involved in the liberation war. The resolution was in-line with an election pledge by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who took power this January.

Just one day later, the interior minister Sahara Khatun announced that Bangladesh has imposed travel restrictions on people suspected of war crimes, as the new government prepared to put them on trial. “My ministry has already ordered concerned authorities to guard all points so that no war criminal can flee the country,” Khatun told reporters.

During the 1971 war for independence, around 3 million people were killed, 200,000 women were violated and millions were displaced at the hands of the Pakistani army and local collaborators. Hence, the war criminals include people who opposed the war of independence against Pakistan and helped the Pakistani army in acts of genocide.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Hasina’s father, was the Bangladesh’s first president.  Rahman launched a move for trying the war criminals, but it stalled after he was killed in a 1975 army coup.

Many accuse the Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s biggest religion-based political party, of collaborating with the Pakistani army during the liberation war. However, the Jamaat denies these charges.

For more information, please see:

Daily Star – 4-Party Stance on War Crime Tribunal – 31 January 2009

Reuters – Bangladesh Bans Travel by Suspected War Criminals – 30 January 2009

Sindh Today – US Welcomes Bangladesh Proposal to Prosecute War Criminals –31 January 2009

Philippines Considers General Jovito Palparan for Dangerous Drug Board

By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

MANILA, Philippines – International human rights group, Human Rights Watch, said the Philippine government should investigate retried General Jovito Palparan for widespread human rights abuses under his command rather than appoint him to a post on the Dangerous Drug Board.

Philippine Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told the media that Palparan was being considered for the position on the Dangerous Drug Board.  The Dangerous Drug Board is a governmental agency composed of top officials from justice, health, foreign affairs, the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Police. The Dangerous Drug Board meets to formulate policies and strategies on drug prevention and control.

During a news conference Ermita told the press, “If [Palparan] was able to generate good information and intelligence from among the New People Army, I think he can also do the same thing among drug traffickers and drug pushers.” The New People Army of the Communist Part of the Philippines has been involved in a rebellion against the Filipino government since 1969.

In a 2006 the Filipino government established the Melo Commission, a government effort to investigate extrajudicial killings of journalists. Leftist activists and clergy members identified Palparan as the “prime suspect behind the extrajudicial killings” in the report. The Melo Commission concluded that “There is certainly evidence pointing the finger of suspicion at some elements and personalities in the armed forces, in particular General Palparan, as responsible for an undetermined number of killings, by allowing, tolerating, and even encouraging the killings.”

Palparan was the military commander for the Central Luzon under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Since 2001, hundreds of left-wing political parties, human rights activists, journalists, and clergy persons in the Philippines have been killed or have gone missing. After Arroyo announced the “all-out war” against the New People Army, the extrajudicial killings and abductions increased.

Due to recent international pressure, the killings and violence have decreased; however, no soldiers have been convicted for involvement in extrajudicial killing since Arroyo took office in 2001. Palparan denies any allegations from human rights groups but has made several comments that alluded to the unjustified killings.  He said that they were “being attributed to me, but I did not kill them. I just inspired [the triggermen]. We are not admitting responsibility here, what I’m saying is that these are necessary incidents.”

Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said, “Considering the serious abuses committed under his command, Palparan and his legacy would be a liability, not an asset, to any government institution that cares about its reputation for upholding human rights.” Person added, “Appointing Palparan to a senior state post would send a strong message that the government rewards, not punishes, those who encourage the killing of perceived adversaries …Unless the Philippines wants a dirty ‘war on drugs’ riddled with killings, it should not take such a dangerous move.”

For more information, please see:

GMA News – US Envoy Calls for Prosecution of Rights Violators – 27 January 2009

Human Rights Watch –Philippines: Investigate Ex-General for Rights Abuses – 3 February 2009

Inquirer – Rights Group: Probe Palparan for Abuses – 4 February 2009

Vanuatu Women’s Centre Speaks Out Against Rise In Sex Crimes

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

PORT VILA, Vanuatu – The Vanuatu Women’s centre has reported that sex crimes accounted for an astonishing 64 percent of last year’s 380 Supreme Court cases in Port Vila.

Ms. Merilyn Tahi, coordinator for the Women’s centre, says these horrifying statistics should prompt the government to recognize the seriousness of the situation and take action to prevent crimes against women. In addition, Tahi argues that the statistics represent the unacceptable attitude toward women in Vanuatu.

“We say, the bottom line is that men have to take women as equal partners have more respect for women and recognise as both human beings. Otherwise our country will just see a more increase of violence and sexual violence on women,” Tahi said.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek says that the Port Vila figures are representative of the increase of sex crimes throughout the country. Drug crime accounted for 18 percent, but was a distant second to the number of sex crimes.

The Women’s centre asserts that these startling figures support their stance that violence against women is on the rise, and that the government must recognize this distressing trend.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Vanuatu women’s group appalled at sex crime figures – 04 February 2009

TVNZ – Sex crimes top court cases in Vanuatu – 04 February 2009

Pacific Nations Speak Out Against Bainimarama

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – Tuilaepa Sailele Malilelegaoi, Samoan Prime Minister, has said Fiji must get rid of their armed forces to have peace.  Tuilaepa said he thinks Fiji’s future is uncertain and even if the country holds elections there is no reason why a civilian government could not be toppled.

Tuilaepa just returned from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea where Pacific leaders were to discuss Fiji’s return to a civilian government.  He said, “If Bainimarama goes and there is a return to civilian government I feel there will be many other Bainimarama’s who may come forward in the future.”  The Samoan PM continued, “This is because it is very easy to pick up a gun and wave it at people.”

Tuilaepa explained Pacific nations wanted Fiji to hold elections because it is a condition for membership in the Pacific Forum that governments are democratically elected.  He mentioned that Bainimarama has accounced it could take up to ten years before elections can be held in Fiji.  He thinks this is negligent of Bainimarama as the leader of Fiji.  He then described Bainimarama as inexperienced in international relations, unused to governing a country, and only wanting praise.

Suspension from the Forum was discussed in Port Moresby and in a unanimous decision Fiji was given until May 1 to come up with an election date this year.  Failure to meet the deadline will result in suspension.

For more information, please see:
Islands Business – Fiji strongman losing Pacific goodwill – 30 January 2009

Samoa Observer – No peace in Fiji with army: PM – 01 February 2009

Radio New Zealand International – Samoa PM says no peace in Fiji unless military goes – 03 February 2009

Chinese Court Postpones A Trial of Earthquake Critic

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – A Chinese court delayed a trial of a rights activist in the nation’s southwest.  Huang Qi often openly criticized the Communist Party’s restrictions on political rights.  He was charged with “illegal possession of state secrets” after he gave help to parents of children killed in Sichuan earthquake.  According to Huang’s wife, Zeng Lin, the Sichuan authorities detained Huang last June and a court told her that Huang would be tried on Moday. “They didn’t say what specifically he was accused of and they have not allowed him or the lawyers to see any documents or evidence,” Zeng said.

After the Sichuan earthquake, Sichuan authorities tried to stop citizen protests, ban media coverage of allegations of shoddy school construction and offered money to grieving parents. According to Zeng, her husband documented the scene at the collapsed schools and delivered food and other rescue equipment to the epicenter.  He also posted the appeals and complaints of parents on his Web site at http://www.64tianwang.com.  “Besides that, he did nothing. And the reports he posted online were also covered by other media,” she added.

Zeng said Huang had lost weight, but she is not allowed to send him medicine.  According to Huang’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, public security officials told him if he promised not to continue human rights work after his release, they would let him go at once. But Huang refused.

Illegal possession of state secrets can bring jail terms of up to 3 years in China. Lawyers and even judges are not allowed to see the documents in question or challenge their classification, said Nicholas Bequelin, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch.  Huang’s attorney, Mo also said, “There’s no real avenue to challenge the validity of whatever authorities classify as a state secret.”

Earlier Monday, Mo said that he first learned of the sudden announcement of the trial date via Zeng, and he had called the court to complain that the lack of forewarning was highly irregular.  Mo also accused the court of “intentionally creating difficulties.” According to Mo, rules demand that lawyers be informed of a trial date at least three days in advance.

For more information, please see
:

New York Times – Chinese Rights Advocate Faces Trial – 02 February 2009

Reuters – China to try earthquake critic on secrets charge – 02 February 2009

Washington Post – Chinese dissident’s trial postponed, lawyer says – 032 February 2009

Washington Post – China Postpones Trial for Activist – 02 February 2009

Protesters in Papua Claim Police Brutality

By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

JAYAPURA, Papua – A human rights group is speaking out after Indonesian police beat and shot at a crowd of demonstrators earlier this week.

Papuan demonstrators held an overnight vigil outside a local elections office in Nabire to protest the government’s delay in holding elections that had been scheduled for last October.

Paula Makabori, a representative from the human right’s group ELSHAM, says the demonstrators were threatening to boycott this year’s legislative and presidential elections if the government did not explain the delay.

Makabori also claims that police attacked the protestors in their sleep.

“And this brutal attack and gunshots against the people resulted in some people suffering of bruises and open wounds, and five people suffering from serious bullet wounds. So the victims have been hiding because they think that the police will go there and then take them out,” Makabori said.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, police shot into a crowd of nearly 300 angry protestors in Timika, seriously injuring four. The hostility began as a demonstration against police brutality and, specifically, the death of one Timika resident, Simor Fader, who was shot by police.

Local police commander, Jasim Hoda, says “a number” of protestors will be questioned in this matter.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Protestors in Papua say police beat them – 30 January 2009

Jakarta Globe – 4 Wounded as Officers Open Fire on Antipolice Protesters in Papua – 28 January 2009

AFP – Indonesian police open fire on Papuan protesters: witnesses – 27 Janurary 2009

Reuters – Police fire on crowd in Indonesia’s Papua, 3 hurt – 27 January 2009

Sri Lankan Newspaper Editor Killed

By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Newspaper editor Upali Tennakoon and his wife were stabbed by four men on motorcycles on while driving to work in Colombo.

Tennakoon is editor for the Rivira, a weekly newspaper that is said to be neither pro-government nor pro-rebel.

The hospital treated Tennakoon and his wife for lacerations to the face and hands.  They are currently in stable condition.  After treatment, Tennakoon’s wife described the attack.  “They smashed the windscreen and began to attack us.”  She further stated, “I clung hard to them when they began to hit us with sticks and stab us.”

Reporters Without Borders stated, “We firmly condemn this latest attack on a newspaper editor, which highlights the severity of the crisis that journalists are currently experiencing in Sri Lanka.”  They continue, “The government must conduct an investigation in order to identify those responsible and their motives.”

President Rajapaksa reportedly ordered an investigation into the matter.  Media minister Anura Yapa said, “We totally condemn this type of attack, and we will do everything possible to find the culprits.”

Meanwhile, five journalists have fled the country and gone into hiding and a website stopped reporting due to threats of violence.  The five journalists are known to be Upul Joseph Fernando and Rathnapala Gamage, political reporters with Lankadeepa; Iqbal Athas of the Sunday Times and Anuruddha Lokuhappuarachchi, a photographer for Reuters.

The Press Freedom Organization stated, “It is deplorable that no concrete measures were taken to protect the news media after newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga’s murder two weeks ago.  As a result of the climate of fear, the most independent journalists are fleeing the island, and the most outspoken media, such as the news website Lankadissent, are closing.”

In a report by Amnesty International in November, at least 10 media employees had been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006.

For more information, please see:

Associated Press – Sri Lankan Editor, Wife Wounded in Knife Attack – 23 January 20009

BBC – Fresh Media Attack in Sri Lanka – 23 January 2009

Reporters Without Borders – Newspaper Editor Injured in Stabbing Attack, Other Journalists Forced to Flee Island – 23 January 2009