Sri Lanka editor’s murder row grows as diplomat censured

January 14, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s government censured a senior international diplomat after he spoke at the funeral of a newspaper editor whose murder has been blamed on the island’s rulers, officials said Wednesday. Sri Lanka’s opposition has demanded an international probe into the killing, which drew condemnation from the US, the European Union and many media rights groups, but the government has rejected the call.

Wickrematunga’s newspaper has been strongly anti-establishment and regularly savaged the escalating military offensive against the insurgent Tamil Tigers.

He was shot at close range near Colombo as he drove to work on Thursday. His attackers escaped even though the murder took place in an area near an airbase where the military has a large security presence.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has strongly denied any government involvement and told Colombo-based foreign correspondents on Monday that he was determined to bring the killers to justice.

But Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Rajapakse’s government was directly to blame for the death of the editor as it had “incited hatred against him.”

Some newspapers in Sri Lanka have accused the authoritie