Rohana Kumara

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Kumara, chief editor of the pro-opposition Sinhala-language newspaper Satana, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen at around 10 p.m. as he traveled in a taxi to his home in the Colombo suburb of Mirihana. The gunmen reportedly fled the scene in a silver Toyota 300 car. Kumara had received a phone call earlier that night notifying him that a group of men had entered his home and had threatened to harm his wife if she did not reveal her husband’s whereabouts.

The motive for the killing was unclear, but journalists in Sri Lanka feared Kumara may have been murdered for his work. CPJs sources characterized Satana (Battle) as a controversial tabloid paper with a reputation for attacking the government and uncovering personal and political scandals.

The opposition United National Party financed Satana, though it had previously received funding from the People s Alliance coalition when that party was in the opposition, according to the Colombo-based Free Media Movement. The People’s Alliance leader, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, has since been elected president of Sri Lanka.

On September 9, CPJ sent a letter to President Kumaratunga condemning Kumara’s murder and urging her ensure that the case was thoroughly investigated. Though President Kumaratunga did indeed order an immediate investigation, local journalists told CPJ at year’s end that police appeared to have abandoned the case.