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
"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
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
further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents
over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries