IFJ Condemns Shocking Attack on Tamil Newspapers in Sri Lanka


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 assaulted.


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 delivered.


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 disregarded.


“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.”


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919


The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries