Sri Lanka human rights abuses, attacks on media draw US concern

July 3, 2008 (AFP) – The United States said Thursday it had “strong concerns” about Sri Lanka’s deteriorating human rights record and escalating attacks on the local media. Deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs Evan Feigenbaum expressed US concerns to Sri Lankan authorities during his four-day visit which ends Thursday.

“We continue to have strong concerns about human rights and pressures on the media,” Feigenbaum said.

He noted, however, the formation of a ministerial committee to address concerns raised by journalists over their safety and independence.

A journalist and a senior officer of the British High Commission (embassy) were beaten up and their car smashed in the capital on Monday, just six days after the cabinet panel was set up to protect media personnel.

Freelance defence analyst Namal Perera escaped the apparent abduction attempt, but is still in hospital after being assaulted with iron bars and sticks. High Commission political officer Mahendra Ratnaweera suffered head injuries, but is out of hospital.

In a separate reaction, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the attack was