Sri Lanka’s other war keeps media on the run

Sri Lankan Police forming a human chain in parliament to protect the Speaker and enable a vote.

January 25, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka is in the grip of its biggest military offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels, but the country’s journalists are also facing an unprecedented battle of their own. Unidentified attackers stabbed weekly newspaper editor Upali Tennakoon and smashed his car as he drove to work Friday in the latest in a string of violent attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka.

The attack against Tennakoon, chief editor of the privately-owned Rivira weekly, and his wife came two weeks after another editor, Lasantha Wickrematunga, was gunned down in a similar attack on the outskirts of Colombo.

Since the killing of the anti-war Sunday Leader editor Wickrematunga on January 8, at least eight senior journalists and media activists have fled the island, fearing that they too could be targeted by unidentified attackers.

Earlier this month, attackers torched a privately owned television station that had been labelled “unpatriotic” by sections of the state media for its coverage of the island’s ethnic conflict.

“Journalism has perhaps become the most dangerous profession in this country,” the privately run Island newspaper said in a front-page editorial on Saturday.