Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wikramatunga succumbs to gunshot injuries

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Lasantha Wikramatunga, the chief editor of the English Weekly, who was shot by unknown gunmen Thursday morning, has succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. Mr. Lasantha Wikramatuga was shot while he was on his way to work around 9:30 a.m. The newspaper and its editor as well as the editor of Morning Leader have been harassed and threatened continuously during the last three years. All Leader publications are very critical towards the government and exponents of opposition political views. The killing has shocked the journalists who are critical of Rajapaksa government.

Lasantha WikramatungaHarassments and attacks on media has been stepped up after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has brought the Media Ministry under him on the New Year Day.

On Tuesday, a group of 20 unidentified attackers who arrived in a white van armed with T-56 assault rifles, pistols and swords stormed the Maharaja Television Network Limited relay station at Depanama in Pannipitiya in Nugegoda and caused extensive damage to the station. Many of the sensitive equipment were put out of function. According to the spokesperson for the MTV group, the damage estimated millions.

Mr. Lassantha Wickramatunga had appeared in MTV programmes broadcast in English and had close links with the station, according to media circles in Colombo.

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Rajapaksa regime has engaged in intimidating and getting rid of journalists who are critical of the ruling government following the celebration of the capture of Ki’linochchi town in Vanni by its armed forces, the sources further alleged.

On 21 November, a twelve-member group of masked men, forcibly entered the printing press of Sunday Leader, Morning Leader and Irudina Sinhala weekly and set fire damaging printing machines and copies of newspapers printed ready for distribution.

The paper office was also attacked earlier in 2005.

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