IFJ Condemns Attack on Tamil Newspaper Office in Sri Lanka

Media release: Sri Lanka                                                                                  

April 5, 2013

The International Federation of Journalists

(IFJ) strongly condemns the attack on the office of the Tamil newspaper Uthayan in Sri Lanka’s northern

provincial town of Kilinochhi on April 3.

According to information received from IFJ partners

and affiliates in Sri Lanka, six masked men forced their way into the office

premises of the newspaper as the day’s edition was being prepared for

distribution. They carried cricket stumps which they used to beat up newspaper

staff and damage office property, including a vehicle that had just brought the

day’s edition from the northern provincial capital of Jaffna.

Uthayan is the leading Tamil language newspaper in

the Northern Province, with an editorial stance that is strongly supportive of

the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

The TNA has been leading national

reconciliation efforts since a quarter-century long civil war between

government forces and the Tamil separatist guerrillas based in the north ended

in 2009. In national and local bodies elections, it has demonstrated strong

support among the people in the Northern Province.

Uthayan has been attacked a number of times during

the civil war and since. In May 2011, one of its staff reporters, S. Kavitharan,

was beaten up in Jaffna city by unidentified assailants. In July 2011, shortly

after a strong showing by the TNA in local bodies elections in the north, the Uthayan news editor, G. Kuhanathan, was

beaten with iron rods and left with near fatal injuries in a Jaffna street.

Kavitharan and Kuhanathan have since been

granted political asylum abroad.

Sunil Jeyasekara of the Free Media Movement

(FMM), a Sri Lankan affiliate of the IFJ, has called the attack on Uthayan, not just a “threat to media

freedom”, but a “threat to the whole country”.

The IFJ considers this attack and the

continuing impunity for past assaults on journalists and the media, to be

demonstrations of a lack of good faith on the part of the Sri Lankan

authorities, who are formally committed to a process of national reconciliation,

in line with the recommendations of a high-powered body – the Lessons Learnt

and Reconciliation Commission – which submitted its report in November 2011.

The IFJ calls for an unequivocal condemnation

of the latest attack from the Sri Lankan government and the launch of a

thorough investigation which swiftly brings the culprits to book.


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