COLOMBO, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen have shot and seriously wounded a Sri Lankan investigative journalist, colleagues and officials said on Saturday, an incident likely to draw further attention to the Indian Ocean island nation’s human rights record.
Political violence has eased since Sri Lanka’s army crushed a three-decade Tamil separatist rebellion in May 2009, but international human rights groups say rule of law problems persist, including abductions and attacks on media and government critics.
Doctors at the Colombo National Hospital said Faraz Shaukatally, 52, a journalist at the weekly Sunday Leader, was undergoing further tests before being admitted for surgery.
Police said three unidentified gunmen entered the guest house where Shaukatally was staying, broke into his room and opened fire. Sunday Leader Editor Sakunthala Perera said the journalist was shot while he was on the telephone discussing a story to appear in this week’s edition.
“The government’s failure to prosecute those who have been responsible for attacks on media in the past has paved the way for this nature of incidents to continue,” Sunil Jayasekera, secretary of the Free Media Movement, a Sri Lankan rights group, told Reuters.
“At least if the government could take action against those who are behind the shooting, that will help to prevent attacks in future.”
An editor of the Sunday Leader was killed in January 2009 and other staff journalists have also been attacked, but no arrests have been made.
Sri Lanka’s rights record has been subject to criticism over alleged excesses during the military’s final phase in defeating Tamil Tiger separatists in May 2009. Rights groups say the military killed thousands of minority ethnic Tamil civilians in the final weeks of the conflict.
A report presented by a court of inquiry on Friday said the army did not shell civilians at the close of operations and blamed Tamil Tiger rebels for the deaths.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has rejected allegations of mass killings.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on Sri Lankan authorities this week to allow international experts to help resolve issues of alleged wartime crimes. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Shihar Aneez and Ronald Popeski)