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Sri Lanka to compensate media attacked under Rajapakse

March 10, 2016

Sri Lanka Thursday announced plans to compensate journalists and media organisations that suffered violence and intimidation during former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse’s decade-long rule.

President Maithripala Sirisena said he has appointed a panel to review unsolved crimes committed against journalists during Rajapakse’s time in power, with the aim of compensating them or their families.

“All journalists and media organisations that became victims of repression will be compensated,” Sirisena said in a statement, without giving details.

The president urged victims to lodge claims by mid-June to a senior civil servant who has been appointed as head of the panel.

Rajapakse has faced wide criticism for his government’s dismal rights record, with rights groups accusing him of using murder and violent intimidation to silence critics and dissidents.

Over a dozen reporters and other media employees were killed between 2005 and 2015, when Rajapakse lost a presidential election to Sirisena.

Radio and television stations were bombed in and around Colombo while a Tamil newspaper office in the northern Jaffna peninsula was frequently targeted by pro-government militia.

A prominent anti-establishment editor, Lasantha Wickrematunga, was gunned down as he drove to work in January 2009 and his killing remains unsolved.

A former minister, Mervyn Silva, has publicly declared that Rajapakse’s then powerful defence secretary brother, Gotabhaya, was responsible for assassinating Wickrematunga, a charge he has denied.

Rajapakse’s administration also faced allegations that his troops killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians while crushing Tamil Tiger guerrillas in the final stages of the ethnic war that ended in 2009.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.