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Authorities must ensure security of journalist under threat, says IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - July 13, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partner organisations in the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) in calling on Sri Lanka's authorities to guarantee the safety of journalist Shantha Priyadarshana Wijesooriya, who was the target of an attempted abduction in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, on July 5, 2012.

Wijesooriya is a well-known journalist who currently works with the online news portal SriLankaXNews.com. The office premises of the news portal were raided by Sri Lanka's police on June 29. Several journalists were arrested and equipment was confiscated. Wijesooriya is also a member of the editorial board of the Sinhala-language newspaper Mawbima and was, between 2007 and 2011, a frequent contributor of investigative stories to the Lanka-e-News web portal.

Having earned a reputation for investigative stories on human rights concerns and official malfeasance, Wijesooriya has reportedly been under surveillance by security and intelligence agencies in recent times. A number of suspicious inquiries by intelligence officials in his home village and frequent telephone calls from these sources have been reported all through 2011 and later.

On July 5, Wijesooriya reported being followed by three persons, of whom one was recognisable as a person from Sri Lanka's intelligence agencies, as he went to a suburb of Colombo city to visit a friend. The three reportedly made an attempt to force him into a waiting van. He was able to break free and escape in a three wheeler taxi. He has since been in hiding and has filed a complaint with Sri Lanka's Inspector-General of Police.

"We are seriously concerned for the safety of Wijesooriya, a member of the managing committee of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association (SLWJA)," said IFJ Asia-Pacific.

"We call on Sri Lanka's government to take note of urgent public concerns expressed on this count by national and international press freedom bodies."

"If Wijesooriya comes to any harm in the next few weeks and months, the burden of proof would be on Sri Lanka's security and intelligence agencies to establish that they were not involved."

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