Sri Lanka’s war against journalists a conspiracy: President

July 2, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s continuing attacks on the media is a conspiracy to discredit the government, President Mahinda Rajapakse said, while the latest assault against a mediaman and a UK embassy staffer drew new condemnation. At a time when the government was fighting terror and implementing development projects, there were moves to de-stabilize the process by leveling allegations of human rights and media suppression, President Rajapakse said after opening a bridge re-built with US aid in the island’s east.

The US also condemned the latest attack against Namal Perera, a freelance journalist and a senior official of the Sri Lanka Press Institute, an industry body, and UK high commission staffer Mahendra Ratnaweera.

“A press that is free of intimidation is an essential component of any democracy,” the United States said.

“We are deeply concerned by a series of recent incidents involving members of the Sri Lankan media.”

Sri Lanka’s Free Media Movement (FMM) said the government response to the latest attacks would test the effectiveness of a high powered ministerial committee appointed to look in to the country’s war against journalists.

FMM convener Sunanda Deshapriya said five out of six ministers in