- Associated Press - Monday, January 31, 2011

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (AP) - A group of men broke into the offices of a website critical of Sri Lanka's government and set fire to it Monday, a journalist from the publication said, adding that he suspected a government role in the attack.

Bennett Rupasinghe, news editor of LankaeNews.com, said the fire destroyed everything in the offices. He said the attackers could have been sent by the government as punishment for the website’s critical articles.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella denied the allegation.

“If they just say it is the government without an iota of evidence it is very unfair,” Rambukwella said.

He said authorities were investigating the cause of the blaze.

LankaeNews continues to be operated by its editor, who lives in exile in Europe, but the website said computers, a library of 3,000 books and newspapers from 20 years have been destroyed.

There have been a series of attacks against media workers and offices in Sri Lanka in the recent past but no arrests have been made. Last July, a media company whose owners were opposition supporters was destroyed in a similar attack.

Prageeth Ekneligoda, a columnist for LankaeNews, disappeared a year ago and is suspected to have been abducted.

His wife wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon earlier this month, saying that the government has showed no interest in investigating the case. She said she suspected the government was complicit in her husband’s disappearance.

Media rights groups say Sri Lanka silences dissenting journalists with threats. Amnesty International says at least 14 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006 and each case remains unsolved.

Gnanasiri Kottigoda, president of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, said he saw Monday’s attack as an “extension” of the anti-media violence of the recent past.

“These are well-planned attacks and the authorities have not taken any interest in investigating,” he said. “This raises the question whether the government is responsible directly or indirectly.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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