Murder of Student Journalist in Jaffna Illustrates Disturbing trend

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked and saddened at the fatal shooting of a young Sri Lankan journalist, and has condemned his death as further evidence of the sickening journalist safety situation in Jaffna.

Nilakshan Sahapavan (22), part-time journalist and student of Jaffna media Resource Training Centre (MRTC), died in hospital today - a few hours after being shot by gunmen in his family home.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said Nilakshan’s violent death is just the latest example of targeted attacks on media workers in the city.

“This continues the alarming trend of journalist killings in government-controlled Jaffna, making the city among the most dangerous in the world for a journalist to work in,” Park said.

“Nilakshan is the eighth media worker killed in Jaffna since May 2006, and yet there is no record of any suspect in such attacks being taken to court since President Mahinda Rajapaksa was inaugurated,” she said.

Motorbike-riding gunmen roused Nilakshan at 4am at his family home in Kokuvil, three miles from Jaffna city, before fatally shooting him.

The area is under government control, heavily guarded by the Sri Lankan military, and the shooting occurred within curfew hours.

The IFJ joins with their affiliate the Free Media Movement (FMM) in urging the Sri Lankan government to overturn the culture of impunity and investigate Nilakshan’s death.

The current climate of fear and violence only encourages self-censorship and undermines independent information sources.

“The killing and abuse of journalists has the effect of silencing sources, who fear for their own safety,” Park said.

“But without first-hand information, news reports become more and more unreliable – ultimately depriving the public of their democratic right to know.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries