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The BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo
"Far more serious allegations are now being raised"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 11:14 GMT
Fears for Sri Lanka press freedom

The president's campaign rally was attacked by a suicide bomber


Sri Lankan opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has accused the government of creating a new climate of media repression.

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  • His comments came amid reports that the head of a state media company had been questioned in connection with last month's assassination attempt on President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

    Mr Wickremesinghe, who was defeated in last month's presidential elections, called on the government to issue a statement on its commitment to uphold media freedom.


    Don't fabricate evidence to show there was a coup
    Ranil Wickremesinghe


    "By all means, investigate the assassination attempt but don't fabricate evidence to show there was a coup and make that an excuse to crack down on media freedom and suppress democracy," Mr Wickremesinghe said.

    Conspiracy theory

    Last week state media alleged that the attempt on the life of President Kumaratunga was part of a wider conspiracy to stage a military coup.

    Ms Kumaratunga has attacked the media


    The Sri Lankan Broadcasting corporation alleged that several prominent businessmen had joined hands with military leaders, the opposition United National Party (UNP) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to murder the president.

    The BBC's Susannah Price in Colombo says the focus is on two unnamed newspaper editors and their role in the suicide bomb attack on Ms Kumaratunga's campaign rally that killed 26 people.


    We call upon the people to rally round to protect the country from the presidential rage
    UNP statement


    The UNP rejected the accusation calling it absurd and said it was part of the government's attempt to stifle opposition.

    "While the government makes the army an easy sacrifice in the north in the hands of the LTTE, the government blames them for conspiring with the LTTE," the UNP said.

    "We call upon the people to rally round to protect the country from the presidential rage," the party said in a statement.

    Private newspaper editors and a media watchdog have said they fear the government would use the allegations to crack down on journalists and curb media freedom ahead of parliamentary elections.

    Last week President Kumaratunga made a lengthy speech on state radio and television in which she accused two broadcasters and six newspaper groups of targetting her during her presidential campaign.



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    See also:
    10 Jan 00 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka 'coup conspiracy'
    04 Jan 00 |  South Asia
    Sri Lankan leader accuses opposition
    18 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Analysis: Fifteen years of bloodshed
    05 Jan 00 |  South Asia
    Sri Lanka's deadly bombers
    08 Jan 00 |  South Asia
    Fifty suspects held in Sri Lanka
    22 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Kumaratunga re-elected in Sri Lanka
    18 Dec 99 |  South Asia
    Blasts rock Sri Lankan rallies

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