Sri Lanka opposition blames army for attacks on media

July 8, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s main opposition Tuesday accused the country’s military chief of orchestrating violent attacks on journalists critical of its battle against Tamil separatists.

Opposition MP Joseph Michael Perera told parliament that a recent wave of beatings and other violence against journalists was carried out by a “special team” under the head of the army.

“We are told by those in the army itself that journalists are abducted and subjected to grievous injury by none other than a special unit under the army commander,” Perera, the former parliamentary speaker, said.

Perera urged “the government to arrest the offenders and bring them to justice.”
Army spokesman brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara denied the army was involved.

“We have nothing to do with the attacks against journalists,” he said. “If the MP has evidence, he must present it to the police.”

The claims came amid mounting international concern for press freedom in the island nation, where government forces have been locked in battle with Tamil separatist rebels in a drawn-out conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

Since August 2005, 12 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka. Elev