Editor's Kidnap Style Arrest Is Part of "War on Journalism" in Sri Lanka, Says IFJ

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) is shocked to learn of the detention of N. Vidyatharan,

editor of the Tamil newspaper Sudar Oli, who disappeared on Wednesday 25

February after a group of unidentified men, some of whom in police

uniform, forcibly bundled him in a van and drove off in the manner of a kidnap

operation.

"We condemn this display of

thuggish tactics against journalists in Sri Lanka;" said Aidan White, IFJ

General Secretary. "The harassment of media has now reached unprecedented

levels and the world needs to speak out against the government's reckless

behaviour."

Fears that Vidyatharan had

been abducted were allayed when the Sri Lankan government's Media Centre for

National Security (MCNS) confirmed that he was in the custody of a special

branch of the police. MCNS director-general, Lakshman Hulugalle, reportedly

dismissed all concerns about the violent manner of Vidyatharan's arrest on the

grounds that he was allegedly a "wanted person".

The IFJ believes that his

arrest, especially the manner in which it was effected, is part of the ongoing "war

on journalism". "Vidyatharan was snatched from a ceremony without being served

any arrest warrant nor any reason given for his arrest," added White. "His

arrest and the official justification for it are consistent with the growing

intolerance within the Sri Lankan government of critical and dissenting voices

among the journalistic community."

According to the eyewitness

account from E. Saravanpavan, chairman of the

newspaper group that owns Sudar Oli, Vidyatharan's captors arrived

unannounced and used disproportionate force in effecting the arrest, after

beating off other mourners at the funeral ceremony who tried to protect him.

Vidyatharan was interrogated

for nearly eight hours on February 16 by officers from a special branch of

the police on the sources his newspaper had used for a story on civilian

casualties of ongoing military operations in the north of Sri Lanka.

Launched in 2001 from Colombo, Sudar Oli is one of Sri Lanka's

main Tamil language newspapers. It has a daily circulation of around 20,000 copies, of

which around 7,000 are read in the eastern province of the Sri Lanka.

Its sister publication, Uthayan,

published from Jaffna city, has a daily

circulation of 22,000 and is the principal vehicle for Tamil language

advertisers in the northern province.

As such, it is able to carry part of the costs of publishing Sudar Oli which earns little income from advertising.

The newspapers have faced a

number of threats and attacks over the years, including an estimated nine

murders of staff members as well as bomb and grenade attacks on premises in

both Jaffna and Colombo. Both Saravanapavan and Vidyatharan

have also received repeated threats over the years to cease publishing stories

that represent the Tamil viewpoint in the island nation's long-running civil

conflict.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919


The IFJ represents

over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries