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Last updated: 22 November, 2007 - Published 15:34 GMT
 
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Attack on newspaper condemned
 
Leader printing house after the attack
Watchdogs say attack could not occur without the knowledge of the security forces
International media watchdogs have condemned the arson attack on Leader publishing house on Tuesday night.

The armed men who staged the attack "must have had support within the security forces," Paris based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without borders (RSF) said.

"By attacking the Leader Publications group, this gang wanted to silence one of the main sources of incisive criticism of the current government. We urge foreign diplomats to publicly express their solidarity with the group," a statement issued RSF stated.

CPJ statement

The printing press that publishes three Sinhala and English language newspapaers was destroyed in the fire.

Executive Director of New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Joel Simon, said the watchdog was appalled by the attack.

 It's time official inquiries into press attacks in Sri Lanka yielded some results, to counteract the message that critical newspapers can be threatened with impunity
 
CPJ statement

"It's time official inquiries into press attacks in Sri Lanka yielded some results, to counteract the message that critical newspapers can be threatened with impunity," he was quoted in a statement.

The English-language Morning Leader and Sunday Leader, and the Sinhala-language weekly Irudina are known for their critical stances towards Sri Lankan authorities.

Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickramatunga, and the group has come under constant attack by the Sri Lanka authorities.

Security forces 'involved'

Leader of the opposition and the United National Party (UNP), Ranil Wickramasinghe, has said that the attack could not occur without the knowledge of the security forces and the defence ministry.

Media minister Anura Yapa
Govt. says there is a conspiracy to tarnish Sri Lanka's image

However, the government denied the accusations.

Media minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa told journalists in Colombo that opposition leader has made the statement without investigating the facts.

The government is concerned whether there is a conspiracy to tarnish Sri Lanka's image by concerned parties.

'Conspiracy' against government

The Sri Lankan government has ordered an investigation.

However, results of similar inquiries launched in the past two years have yet to be made public Free Media Movement's (FMM) convenor, Sunanada Deshapriya, told the CPJ.

 By attacking the Leader Publications group, this gang wanted to silence one of the main sources of incisive criticism of the current government. We urge foreign diplomats to publicly express their solidarity with the group
 
RSF statement

The three papers will find another private printing press and continue to publish, Deshapriya said.

Five media organisations in Sri Lanka have urged all concerned to raise their voice "at a time democratic rights and human rights are seriously violated" by the authorities.

Movement Against Media Suppression (MAMS) has organised a protest against the attack on Friday in Colombo.

 
 
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