The International Federation of Journalists today said that Sri Lanka and its major Tamil-dominated cities have become a “deathtrap for journalism” following the brutal assassination of two media staff in the northern city of Jaffna.
Earlier today at 6pm local time, two unidentified gunmen entered into the offices of the Tamil daily nationalist newspaper, Udyan, killing Ranjit Kumar, a machine operator and Suresh, a marketing manager. Three journalists were badly injured in the attack, with two in critical condition.
“With at least 7 media deaths, beatings and arrests of reporters in the last year, Jaffna has become a deathtrap for journalism,” said Christopher Warren, IFJ President, speaking at the opening of a UNESCO conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
“On the eve of World Press Freedom Day and while the Sri Lankan government acknowledges the vital role of journalists in society, it is cruelly ironic that such a cold and calculated attack can take place,” said Warren.
The exact circumstances of the attack remain unknown, with the Sri Lankan government security forces denying any involvement in the killings. The incident took place during a the one-year anniversary vigil held in the name of Tamil journalist Dharmeratnam "Taraki" Sivaram, the editor of the Tamilnet news website and columnist for the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror newspaper.
The IFJ, its affiliates in Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement (FMM), the Federation of Media Employees' Trade Unions (FMETU) and the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and other press freedom groups have been calling on President Mahinda Rajapakse to step up efforts in the investigation into Sivaram’s murder as the state’s credibility in preventing the murders of journalists, especially Tamil journalists, is at stake”.
The IFJ is calling for an immediate and thorough investigation into these killings in order to allay any suspicions of official state involvement in the attack.
“It is essential that the role of journalists and the media is respected as independent from the conflict,” said Warren. “Intimidation of journalists working in the Northern and Western Tamil areas must be recognized as unacceptable state targeting of papers taking a pro-Tamil nationalism editorial stance,” said Warren.
The IFJ is supporting its affiliates calls for both sides of the conflict to respect the independent role of the media and to ensure the safety and ability of journalists to do their job of informing the public.
Tomorrow the IFJ, together with the South Asia Media Solidarity Network, will be releasing the annual South Asia Press Freedom Report, with the support of UNESCO, titled Journalism in troubled times: The struggle for press freedom in South Asia. The report highlights the plight of journalists throughout South Asia.
“This report shows two things: First, press freedom is under continued pressure from governments, insurgents, terrorists and thugs,” said Warren. “Second, that journalists are fighting back.”
The report will be available online at www.ifj-asia.org from May 3.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific +61 2 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries