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Police say murdered journalist was paid military informant; FMM demands open investigation

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is a 19 February 2008 FMM press release:

Sri Lankan Police conjure up an incredible revelation in the murder investigations of a journalist

19 February 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka - The Free Media Movement (FMM) is very surprised to learn that the head of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Sri Lankan Police claims that journalist Sampath Lakmal, who was murdered in 2006, was a paid military informant. DIG H. W. Prathapasinghe made this statement to an English newspaper on 17 February 2008. The FMM finds it utterly incredible that it has taken 18 months for the CID to make this revelation, even by its own standards.

In its alert on the day of his murder the FMM said:

The FMM does not condone any involvement of journalists in active party politics or military types of activities. The FMM condemns this murder on the grounds of right to life and journalists' rights to gather and disseminate information.

Journalist Sampath Lakmal was lured out from his house where he lived with his mother on 2 July 2006 and shot dead in the early morning hours. He worked as a freelance journalist for the Sinhala weekly "Sathdina" at the time of his death. Before that he worked as a full time journalist for a number of media institutions. Mrs. Rupa de Silva, his mother and a retired schoolteacher, provided the Police with the name of the military officer who asked Sampath Lakmal to join him that fatal night. Although the court has taken up the case eight times so far, the Police have failed to produce any suspects or even to record a statement from the military officer.

This statement by the CID head poses very important questions that have to be answered by police/state military agencies:

Is it a common practice for state security agencies to employ journalists as paid agents? Is it right for the military to engage journalists as their paid agents in a democratic society? Are there any more military agents posing as journalists? If Sampath Lakmal was a military agent cum journalist does it mean that his death should not be investigated? What evidence can the police produce to prove that he was a paid agent? Is there any relation between his killing and being an agent? Or was he killed because of his writing?

The FMM is deeply concerned that State agencies are accusing journalists of being agents of the military or the LTTE to cover up extra judicial killings, assaults and arrests. When female Tamil journalist Parameshwari was arrested in November 2006, it was linked to the arrest of another Tamil female whom the security forces labeled as a suicide bomber. Both of them were released without any charges only after they filed fundamental rights cases against the police.

The FMM demands that the CID and Police prove these allegations and open the investigation of Sampath Lakmal's murder to the media. We believe the truth behind his killing is not to be found in sensational revelations, but in the due course of justice that we note with concern is significantly vitiated in Sri Lanka today.

For further information, contact the Free Media Movement, 237/22, Wijeya Kumaratunga Road, Colombo 05, Sri Lanka, tel: +94 777 312 457, +94 11 257 3439, fax: +94 11 471 4460, e-mail: [email protected], Internet:

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