Sri Lankan newspaper editor shot dead

January 8, 2009 (AFP) – The editor of a Sri Lankan anti-government newspaper was shot dead on Thursday as he drove to work near the capital Colombo, police said, in the second attack on journalists this week. Gunmen on two motorcycles escaped after opening fire on Lasantha Wickrematunga, the editor of the Sunday Leader, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera said.

The fatal shooting came two days after unidentified attackers torched a privately-owned television station that had been labelled “unpatriotic” by sections of the state media for its coverage of the war against Tamil rebels.

Wickrematunga was rushed to the Colombo South hospital, where he died after three hours of emergency surgery. Colleagues said he had been shot in the chest and head.

“We tried our best to revive him, but we couldn’t,” said hospital director Anil Jasinghe.

The Sunday Leader is virulently anti-establishment and regularly lampoons politicians. It has exposed several privatisation deals that eventually ended up being overturned by the supreme court.

Wickrematunga, a qualified lawyer, had often fought defamation cases brought by senior politicians. The paper’s printing presses were also targeted in repeated arso