Sri Lanka urged by media rights groups to punish TV station attackers

January 7, 2009 (AFP) – Media rights groups Wednesday urged Sri Lanka to punish those behind a recent attack on a privately-run television station that was torched by an armed gang. Gunmen stormed the studios and control rooms of the Maharaja TV network outside Colombo, held staff at gunpoint, and smashed and set alight equipment, police said.

“The government must quickly find and punish those responsible for this latest attack and see the network is compensated,” said Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The attack on Tuesday came after the station was labelled “unpatriotic” by sections of the state media for its coverage of the war against Tamil rebels, police and media activists said.

“Violence and threats against such privately-owned media outlets and journalists trying to impartially report on the conflict must stop,” RSF said.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapakse Tuesday condemned the attack but New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday went further and called for an independent parliamentary investigation.

“Even with its condemnations, the government can longer be trusted to act with impartiality when it com