IFJ Condemns Shocking Attack on Tamil Newspapers in Sri Lanka

 

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) strongly condemns an attack on three Tamil newspapers in the

northern Sri Lankan city of Jaffna

on June 24.

 

According to reports from IFJ

sources, news agents for Jaffna’s three main

newspapers – Uthayan, Valampuri and Thinakkural – were attacked early that morning as they began

distributing the day’s editions.

 

In the case of Uthayan, which with its Colombo-based sister publication, Sudar Oli,

been an essential link between dispersed elements of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community, the attack was particularly violent, with the delivery agents physically and verbally

assaulted.

 

According to reliable information

received, newspaper bundles were slashed with sharp weapons, doused in petrol

and set afire.

 

The management of Uthayan immediately

suspended further deliveries of the newspapers, only resuming after an hour.

 

A 26-year-old delivery agent of Thinakkural was reportedly assaulted at the same place in Jaffna city,

and suffered serious injuries.

 

These latest episodes in an

unrelenting campaign of violence against the media in Sri Lanka were

apparently provoked by the refusal of the newspapers to publish a statement

titled “Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam”,

issued by a body of uncertain provenance calling itself the Tamil Front

Protecting the Country.

 

The statement was delivered at the

newspaper offices on June 23 with a demand that it be published. But according

to Uthayan’s editor and

publisher, it failed to meet minimum

standards of authenticity, with no identifiable

originating address or claim of authorship.

 

Early on June 25, the editor of Uthayan and Sudar Oli, Nadesapillai Vidyatharan, received an anonymous and abusive call at his Colombo home, warning him of serious consequences for his

failure to publish the statement.

 

Vidyatharan, who was recently arrested by the Sri Lankan

police and held for three months on supposed “terrorism” charges before being

unconditionally discharged by the courts,

received another call just over an hour later from the same number, gloating over the lesson that had supposedly been

delivered.

 

The publisher of Uthayan,

E. Saravanapavan, has reportedly

brought the matter to the notice of the military commander with responsibility

for Jaffna city

and the local police. All relevant information has been conveyed to the

authorities for appropriate action.

 

“The IFJ calls upon Sri Lanka’s

authorities to take credible steps to see that this latest outrage is suitably dealt

with and the perpetrators brought to justice,”

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“We are extremely disturbed by

reports that all requests that editor Vidyatharan’s security be ensured have been

disregarded.

 

“Without suitable measures in place to

guarantee the right of the public to speak and the right of the press to report, the local elections planned for Jaffna city and Vavuniya town in the next few

weeks will risk failing the test of legitimacy.”

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries