Media release: Sri Lanka
April 15, 2013
The International Federation of Journalists
(IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in Sri Lanka in unequivocally condemning
the repeated targeting of the Tamil newspaper Uthayan. On April 13, just ten days after an assault on the
newspaper’s distribution office in the northern provincial town of Kilinochhi,
its printing press in the provincial capital of Jaffna was attacked and parts
of it damaged in arson.
According to information received from the
IFJ’s Sri Lankan affiliate, the Free Media Movement, the Uthayan office in Jaffna came under attack just before dawn on
April 13, when three armed men arrived and began firing at random. Staff who
were organising the day’s edition for distribution, scattered in panic. The
armed intruders who remain unidentified as yet, then went to the printing shop,
fired at some of the vital equipment with obvious intent to disable it, and set
fire to both newspaper bundles and some of the machinery.
As the FMM, reports, Uthayan newspaper has been the target of violence for several years,
with 8 workers being killed since 2005.
E. Saravanapavan, who is a Member of
Parliament from the Tamil National Alliance of Sri Lanka and proprietor of Uthayan, has said that the chief editor
of the newspaper had written to the top police officials of the northern
province after the April 3 attack at Kilinochhi, requesting urgent security
measures. He received no response. Furthermore, the single police officer
provided to the newspaper for security since an especially violent attack in
2006, proved to be ineffective, although he was on the premises when the April
13 attack took place.
The FMM has pointed out in a statement
released on April 13 that “the burning of the Uthayan printing press and other attacks on the Tamil media ... suggests
a pattern of violence that is deliberate and that powerful political elements
and the security establishment are aware of but are choosing to ignore”.
The effort to silence Uthayan after the country’s long civil war was formally declared
over in May 2009, “is seen as a direct attack on post-war democracy and media
freedom in the country, aimed at suppressing the dissemination of important
information and diverse views among the public”.
The FMM has warned of the “serious implications
of such actions for peace and reconciliation”. It has demanded that “the government
take appropriate action to prevent armed individuals and groups from committing violence in the north, in an area
that has the highest military presence
in the country”.
The IFJ endorses these demands and calls on
the Government of Sri Lanka once again, to set a course of action that will end
the culture of impunity that has for too long, taken a heavy toll of free
speech in the country.
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