Sri Lankan government says attack on newspaper orchestrated

The Sri Lankan government said Saturday that the attack on a Tamil newspaper office in northern Sri Lanka was orchestrated and carried out to tarnish the image of the government.

The Uthayan office in Jaffna was attacked and the printing office set on fire by an unidentified group on Saturday morning causing extensive damage, the newspaper's editor said.

The staff was preparing to distribute the newspapers when an armed gang entered the premises. The Sri Lankan Defense Ministry just hours after the attack claimed that the attack was an inside job.

Director General of the Media Center for National Security Lakshman Hulugalla was quoted on the Defense Ministry website as saying that the attack was carried out in an attempt to tarnish the image of the government.

"The setting fire to Uthayan newspaper printing office has been an inside job to tarnish the government's image," he said. Meanwhile, the army rejected allegations that troops in Jaffna may have carried out the attack.

Army spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya said the military is duty bound to protect the constitutional rights and freedom of expression is one of the guaranteed rights.

He said that according to preliminary investigations carried out by the authorities the damage caused by the latest attack is not excessive.

"Only three paper rolls are partially burnt along with few papers, no damage to any printing machines, and power supply has been interrupted due to heat. When power is restored the paper can resume its operations, perhaps today itself," he said.

This is the second attack on the Tamil newspaper this month with three people sustaining injuries when the paper came under attack on April 3.

Philippines News agency