End the Threat of Lethal Action Against Jaffna's Uthayan Newspaper

The International Federation of

Journalists is shocked that the systematic campaign of threats and harassment

carried out against Uthayan,

a Tamil newspaper in the northern Sri Lankan city of Jaffna,

has culminated in a “final warning” to shut down or risk lethal retaliation.


According to reports received from

IFJ sources in Sri Lanka, a letter

written to all Uthayan staff and news agents on June 27, and purporting to be a “final warning”, accused the newspaper of being “pro-terrorist” and

of “confusing” the Tamil people of Sri Lanka from the time it began



With “harmony and liberty” now

purportedly regained in Sri


Uthayan was working towards “destroying the permanent peace and (causing) the

public to turn to terrorists again,

the letter said. The newspaper’s reports allegedly “twisted” the truth and

promoted “communal feelings among the Tamils”.


“This is a potentially lethal

escalation in the campaign of intimidation against Uthayan”, said IFJ General Secretary Aidan

White. “Despite suffering serious public vilification and

numerous violent attacks directed at its staff and its premises, Uthayan has continued to publish over the

years and earned a well-deserved reputation for editorial courage and conviction”.


“All through the years of the

country’s bitter internal conflict, Uthayan and its sister-publication, the

Colombo-based Tamil daily, Sudar

Oli, were a vital platform for

the dispersed Tamil community of Sri Lanka to make their voices



In the most recent incident of

violent intimidation that it suffered,

news agents for Uthayan and two other Tamil newspapers of Jaffna, Valampuri and Thinakkural were

attacked early on the morning of June 24 as they began distributing the day’s




Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, editor of

Uthayan’s sister-publication, Sudar

Oli, was detained on February 26

in an abduction-style manner which the Sri Lankan authorities justified at the

time on the grounds that he was a “wanted person”. Officials of the Crime

Branch of the Sri Lankan police requested an extension of his detention on

March 18 while his alleged involvement in an insurgent air raid on Colombo on February 20

was investigated.


Vithyatharan was released on April

27 without charge.


In the light of the accusations made

in the recent anonymous letter and the clear warning that Uthayan should

shut down by June 30 or risk “capital punishment”,

the IFJ calls on the authorities in Sri Lanka to publicly condemn this

act of intimidation and provide all appropriate security to the staff and the

premises of the newspaper.




further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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