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IFJ urges full investigation as editor granted bail

(IFJ/IFEX) - April 8, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of editor Bennett Rupasinghe from detention in Sri Lanka but renews its call for authorities to step up their investigation into the arson attack on his news outlet, Lanka-e-News.

In the Kaduwela Magistrates Court on April 7, Magistrate Jayaki de Alwis refused a police request to extend Rupasinghe's detention for another two weeks.

Rupasinghe, 68, was released on cash bail of LKR 10,000 and personal bail of LKR 300,000 (USD 2700), after being detained at Welikada prison in Colombo since March 31.

Rupasinghe, who denies accusations of making threatening calls to a suspect in the January 31 arson attack, was warned by the magistrate not to interfere in the investigation.

"The IFJ is relieved that Rupasinghe was granted bail but maintains its call to authorities to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the attack on Lanka-e-News," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"We urge power-holders in Sri Lanka to ensure the safety and protection of Rupasinghe and his colleagues at Lanka-e-News, including journalists Shantha Wijesooriya and Sanjaya Dassanayake."

Wijesooriya and Dassanayake allege recent state media reporting referring to them is defamatory and false. They also report being watched by unknown persons.

"Reports of intimidation of Lanka-e-News personnel are extremely worrying in a context where Sri Lanka's independent media continues to be challenged by efforts to counter critical commentary, and grave fears are held for missing Lanka-e-News columnist Prageeth Eknaligoda," Park said.

Local organisations joined forces under the umbrella of the Sri Lanka Alliance of Media Organisations to conduct a silent protest outside the Kaduwela court as Rupasinghe's case was heard yesterday.

Rupasinghe's next hearing is scheduled for July 7.

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