Sri Lankan journalist critically injured in gun attack

New York, September 11, 2008— The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the shooting of Sri Lankan journalist Radhika Devakumar on Monday evening. A gunman or gunmen fired on Devakumar, an ethnic Tamil, at her home in Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka, according to local news reports. She was in critical condition today after being transferred to a Colombo hospital, the reports said.

Initial reports differed on details of the attack, including the number of assailants and the precise location. Devakumar was shot at around 8 p.m., the reports said, and suffered at least two gunshot wounds. No family members were reported injured.

Devakumar is a correspondent for the state-owned Tamil-language daily Thinakaran newspaper, the reports said. She also worked as a media secretary for a local provincial minister, according to the local press freedom group Free Media Movement. The motive for the attack is unclear.

“We call on the Sri Lankan government to investigate this attack immediately,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator. “Attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka occur with almost total impunity, and this shameful record must be corrected.”

Maharaja Television’s Jaffna correspondent, Paranirupasingham Devakumar, was stabbed to death on May 28 by supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam who believed some of his reports favored the predominantly Sinhalese government, according to Free Media Movement spokesman Sunanda Deshapriya.

Tamil journalists, and defense columnists critical of the government’s war with the Tigers, are also frequently harassed by security forces, according to CPJ research. Senior Tamil journalist J.S. Tissainayagam is facing terrorism charges related to the publication of a Tamil-viewpoint magazine in 2006.

Sri Lanka is number five on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which classifies countries which have consistently failed to address journalist murders.