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CPJ welcomes new probe into murder of Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga

Sri Lankan crime investigating police officers prepare to exhume the remains of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge at a cemetery in Colombo, 27 September 2016
Sri Lankan crime investigating police officers prepare to exhume the remains of editor Lasantha Wickrematunge at a cemetery in Colombo, 27 September 2016

AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 27 September 2016.

Sri Lankan police today [September 27, 2016] exhumed the body of slain journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga as part of a new investigation into his death in 2009, according to news reports. A Sri Lankan judge this month granted permission for the police to exhume the editor's body due to contradictory post-mortem reports - two months after a military intelligence officer was arrested in connection with the killing, according to news reports.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, elected in January 2015, has pledged to reopen investigations into journalists killed or disappeared during the last 30 years. Sri Lanka ranked sixth on CPJ's 2015 Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free.

"We are encouraged that new steps are finally being taken in the case of Lasantha Wickramatunga and urge the Sri Lankan government to follow through with a transparent and thorough investigation into his murder," said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy executive director. "We call on President Sirisena to facilitate investigations into all cases of journalists who have disappeared or been killed, bring their perpetrators to justice, and end the cycle of impunity."

Wickramatunga, editor-in-chief of the Sri Lankan weekly The Sunday Leader, was on his way to work in January 2009 when eight helmeted men on four motorcycles beat him with iron bars and wooden poles on a busy street outside Colombo. He died in a local hospital a few hours later. Wickramatunga had been known for his critical reporting on the then-government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose 10-year leadership was associated with severe restrictions on the press.

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