Indika Pathinivasan

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At its most fundamental level, the job of a journalist is to bear witness. In 1999, journalists in Sierra Leone witnessed rebels' atrocities against civilians in the streets of Freetown. In the Balkans, journalists watched ethnic Albanians fleeing the deadly menace of Serbian police and paramilitaries. In Indonesia, they recorded the violence of Indonesian-backed militias against supporters of political independence. Some who wrote about what they witnessed ended up dying because of the stories they told.

Sri Lanka's increasingly violent political climate has heightened the danger for the country's journalists. The 16-year-old civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a guerrilla movement fighting for a separate homeland for the country's ethnic Tamil minority, continued, and has so far claimed more than 61,000 lives.

On December 18, two young camera assistants, Indika Pathinivasan of the Maharaja Television Network and Anura Priyantha of the Independent Television Network, were killed while covering an election rally for President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Both journalists were fatally wounded by shrapnel from a suicide bomb whose intended target was Kumaratunga; the president was injured in the attack, which was believed to have been orchestrated by the LTTE. Another three Sri Lankan journalists were killed by assassins in 1999. CPJ continues to investigate their cases, to determine whether the murders were linked to the journalists' work.
Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
President, Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo-1
Sri Lanka

VIA FAX: 011-94-1-333-703

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the December 31 murder of Vasthian Anthony Mariyadas, a free-lance radio reporter who was on assignment for the state-run Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation when he was shot dead in the northern town of Vavuniya.

New York, December 21, 1999 --- Two Sri Lankan broadcast journalists were among 22 people killed in an assassination attempt against President Chandrika Kumaratunga at an election rally on Saturday, December 18. Five other journalists were injured by the blast, which also injured Kumaratunga and scores of onlookers.

According to reports, a suicide bomber detonated the bomb at approximately 10 p.m. near a barrier that separated a crowd of reporters from Kumaratunga and a car that had arrived to pick her up. The blast killed Indika Pathinivasan of the Maharaja Television Network (MTV) and Anura Priyantha of the Independent Television Network, both camera assistants.

Indika Pathinivasan, a camera assistant for Sri Lanka's privately owned Maharaja Television Network, and Anura Priyantha, a camera assistant for the state-owned Independent Television Network, were fatally wounded by shrapnel from a suicide bomb aimed at President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at an election rally in Colombo. Five other journalists were injured by the blast, along with Kumaratunga and scores of onlookers.
  

The bomb exploded at around 10 p.m. near a barrier separating journalists, including Pathinivasan and Priyantha, from Kumaratunga and a car that had arrived to pick her up. At least 22 people were killed in the assassination attempt, according to police.

Pathinivasan died instantly of shrapnel wounds. Priyantha died later at a Colombo hospital.

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