Sri Lanka private TV station stoned ahead of vote: police

March 22, 2010 (AFP) – Dozens of unidentified men pelted stones at the headquarters of a private television station in Sri Lanka’s capital Monday, causing damage to the building, police said.

The latest attack came as Sri Lankan and foreign media rights groups accused the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse of cracking down on dissent, a charge the government has denied. The motive was not immediately clear, but officials at the MTV channel said they suspected the attack was politically motivated ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections.

“We have arrested 16 people who were involved in the stone-throwing incident,” a police official outside the MTV premises in Colombo’s Braybrooke Place told reporters.

He said several staff members were wounded while windows in the building were broken. Several cars had their windshields shattered.

Unidentified attackers torched the studios of MTV in January last year and the authorities are yet to bring the perpetrators to justice. The station is widely seen as pro-opposition, but the network insists it is independent.

Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda rushed to the MTV office shortly after Monday’s attack and promise