Media outlet torched in Sri Lanka

2010-07-30 09:47

Colombo - A dozen men armed with assault rifles and petrol bombs attacked the offices on Friday of a media company whose owners had strongly supported the opposition in the last presidential election.

The men entered the premises of Voice of Asia Network in the Sri Lankan capital around 01:30 on Friday and assaulted a security guard before setting the buildings on fire with petrol bombs, said Jimmy Deen, a spokesperson for the company, which runs a private television station and three radio stations. The security guard and another employee were injured.

The blaze gutted the building housing the company's television channel Siyatha TV and damaged the station's control room, studio and library, Deen said. The TV station had to be shut down, but the radio stations were still broadcasting.

Police spokesperson Prishantha Jayakody confirmed the attack, but said authorities needed more time to confirm the details.

Deen said he couldn't think of any reason for the attack, since the stations were mainly focused on entertainment and education. It was widely known, however, that the company's owners backed the main opposition candidate, ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka, in January's presidential election.

Fonseka lost, and he and many of his supporters were arrested after the vote. Fonseka faces a court-martial for allegedly planning his political career while in the army.

Fonseka's supporters say President Mahinda Rajapaksa is punishing the general for daring to challenge him.