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Gunmen in white van attack journalist in Sri Lanka

The residence of Colombo-based journalist, Chamuditha Samarawickrama, was attacked by masked gunmen travelling in a white van in the early hours of Monday.

This attack takes place just 14 days ahead of a UN Human Rights Council session and follows a series of controversial videos released by the journalist, the latest of which laid allegations against the extremist Buddhist monk Galabadaththe Gnanasara who heads Sri Lanka’s task force for ‘One Country, One Law’.

Speaking to reports Samarawickrama claimed that he was awoken by a loud noise at 2.10 am and found that several windows had been shattered and fences broken.

"There were at least three armed men and they travelled in a white van," Samarawickrama told AFP. "I heard shots fired. They smashed my windows and threw faeces at the house. It was captured on CCTV."

Four unidentified individuals were seen on CCTV and reportedly threatened the on-guard security personnel by pointing a gun at his head. The individuals concealed their identity by wearing motorcycle helmets and face masks, and CCTV footage shows them entering the premises holding several items including a bag and a cardboard box.

Samarawickrama reported that he had received several threatening phone calls but maintains he does not know the motive behind the attack or who the perpetrators were.

Sri Lanka which is currently ranked 127th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index, has seen an alarming increase in attacks and harassment against journalists, particularly in the North-East for reporting on issues affecting Tamils in the homeland.

These attacks have escalated since the appointment of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the presidency. Rajapaksa stands accused of overseeing white van abductions and disappearances of journalists.

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