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
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
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
“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.”
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries