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Death threats made to female newspaper editors

“If you write anymore, we will kill you and slice you into pieces.”


These were the words of “hand written death threats”, received by two female editors of The Sunday Leader, a leading broadsheet in Sri Lanka.


The threats were sent to the editors, Frederica Jansz and Munza Mushtaq, after the paper published a story relating to the infamous Channel 4 execution video, reporting that the video was authentic.


The letters, received on October 22, were written in red ink, and were reported by Jansz to be “almost identical to what Lasantha (Wickrematunge) got three weeks before he was murdered”.


The former Sunday Leader editor received the threats just before he was assassinated.


A professional graphologist P.H. Manatunge, confirmed that the writings sent to Wickrematunge were similar to the ones received recently and may have been sent by the same person.


The threats followed an article written in the government run Media Centre for National Security website, attacking Frederica Jansz for comments made in an interview with Al-Jazeera.


The article went so far as to even carry terminology such as “prostituting” and “prostitute.”


“This newspaper has consistently in the entire 15 years of its existence come under attack. We have been burnt, bombed, sealed, harassed and threatened, culminating in January this year with the brutal killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge,” reported the paper.


“Not satisfied with that assassination, The Sunday Leader has continued to come under attack.”


The threats were received after the paper published a front page news article reporting the findings of a United States forensic analyst company.


The American company had said in a preliminary report that there had been no tampering of the controversial Channel 4 video clip, in either the audio or video portions of the footage.


The video showed men in Sri Lankan Army uniform executing naked, blindfolded Tamil civilians, with their hands tied behind their backs.


“The police must treat these death threats written in red ink with the utmost seriousness, especially as they were sent to two journalists whose press group has repeatedly been the target of physical violence,” Reporters Without Borders said.


“We urge the police to track down and arrest those who wrote these letters.”


“It is also vital that the authorities order the security forces to put a stop to their unwarranted summonses and arrests of journalists, and to register the complaints submitted by journalists when they are physically attacked," carried on the non-governmental organisation which advocates press freedom.


Since President Mahinda Rajapakse came into power in 2006 at least 14 media workers have been killed and over 30 media workers have been seriously assaulted in the last 2 years.


The President has ordered an investigation into the threats, “but like all the inquiries he has ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one too,” reported the paper.


“Over the past three years, numerous journalists have been detained in Sri Lanka while others have fled the country,” reported Amnesty International.


“Investigations have not resulted in prosecutions.”


“Our concern is that these most recent threats, like so many others, and the deaths of 11 journalists since President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power in 2006, will remain unexplained and those behind them will remain unprosecuted,” said Bob Dietz of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.


“The air of impunity surrounding violence against the media is having a chilling effect on journalists.”