Sri Lanka defence analyst silenced amid fears for life

Aug 26, 2007 (AFP) – A top Sri Lankan defence columnist stopped writing fearing for his life after he exposed alleged corruption in the purchase of second-hand supersonic jets, the Sunday Times weekly said. The “Situation Report” by Iqbal Athas was not being published Sunday after the government withdrew police body guards who had been assigned to protect him for over nine years, the paper said.

“The Sunday Times regrets the Situation Report does not appear today in the light of serious constraints placed on the author, Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent,” the paper said.

“He fears for his life and that of his family,” it said, adding that Athas was being followed.

In the space reserved for Athas’ weekly column was a parliamentary investigation into state enterprises under the headline: “The stink of the state sector.”

The indirect censorship of Athas comes as international media activists on Friday warned of worsening conditions in one of the world’s most dangerous places for journalists.

The local Free Media Movement (FMM) said it was convinced there was a “very real basis” for Athas to fear for his life because of repeated attacks and harassment of journalists and media