A Sri Lankan journalist, Faraz Shaukatally, was attacked on the night of February 15th when he was shot and wounded by gunmen, Reporters Without Borders reports. Reporters Without Borders believes that the attack was made based on his reporting about government corruption and private sector embezzlement. He works for the Sunday Leader, one of Sri Lanka's biggest papers. Sri Lanka is on an island just south of India. The war killed an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people.
Reporters Without Borders notes that this is part of a systematic attempt by the Sri Lankan government to suppress independent journalism within the country:
This attack comes just weeks after the third anniversary of cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda’s disappearance on 24 January 2010, the fourth anniversary of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunga’s murder on 8 January 2009 and the four anniversary of an attempt on the lives of Rivira editor Upali Tennakoon and his wife, also in January 2009.
Sri Lankan journalists are constantly the targets of threats and reprisals, often by the government. Former Sunday Leader editor Frederica Jansz recently talked to Reporters Without Borders about the violence and impunity that undermines the work of the media and forced her to flee the country.
Human Rights Watch reports that the Sri Lankan government failed to advance justice for the victims of the recent 26 year long civil war. Instead, they were repressing basic freedoms, limiting the right to free speech and failing to investigate violations of international humanitarian law.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
says that opposition leaders are still being killed or abducted and the government had not made any arrests or prosecutions in cases of disappearances. A UN panel in 2010 and 2011 documented war crimes by the Sri Lankan army during the final stages of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamils in 2008 and 2009 including shelling of civilian zones, firing on hospitals, and many other such violations. Amnesty International, a human rights group, notes as of February 12th 2013 that impunity still persists for persons carrying out these actions.
A petition on the White House website dealt with the human rights violations of Sri Lanka. It received sufficient signatures to generate a response
from the White House. Michael Posner, an Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department, said that at the request of Congress, the Department of State prepared two reports regarding the violations of international humanitarian law and that the US takes these reports very seriously. He called on individual accountability for these violations, saying that it was a critical component of reconciliation. He said that there was a need for Sri Lanka to quickly and credibly address allegations of violations regardless of who committed them. In addition, he called on Sri Lanka to take concrete steps such as providing family members an account of those missing and detained as well as issuing death certificates for those killed.
"We hope the Government of Sri Lanka will address these reconciliation and accountability issues in a manner commensurate with its international obligations," Posner concluded. "We will continue to reiterate to the government of Sri Lanka that, while domestic authorities have primary responsibility to ensure that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law are held accountable, international accountability mechanisms can become appropriate in circumstances in which a government is unable or unwilling to meet its obligations."