The office of a website critical of the Sri Lankan government was set fire early on Monday and the government responded by ordering an urgent inquiry into the attack.

According to a Sri Lankan internet newspaper, ColomboPage, a post at the Lankaenews website, said that the office of LankaeNews at Daham Mawatha, Malabe, was set on fire around 2 a.m. by a group of unknown persons who had broken into the premises. "By now everything that was inside the building has been destroyed," the brief news item said.

The Sinhala language website says it has come under various threats and attacks since the 2010 Presidential election for its support for common opposition candidate former Army Chief, General Sarath Fonseka. Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist and a cartoonist of the LankaeNews website went missing days before the presidential election last year. The website could not be accessed by this reporter.

The Associated Press quoted Bennett Rupasinghe, news editor of LankaeNews.com, as saying that the attackers could have been sent by the government as punishment for the website's critical articles.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella denied the allegation. "If they just say it is the government without an iota of evidence it is very unfair," Mr. Rambukwella told Associated Press.

Director General of the President’s Media Division Bandula Jayasekera told The Hindu that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Inspector General of Police to conduct an urgent inquiry into the attack on the Lanka e news office in Malabe and submit a report.

Amnesty International (May 2010 report) says at least 15 Sri Lankan media workers have been killed since the beginning of 2006 and each case remains unsolved. Twenty more have fled. Sri Lanka has been ranked 158th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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