IFJ Demands End to Mistreatment of Editor Detained in Sri Lanka

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) demands that Sri Lankan authorities end the mistreatment and

possible torture of N. Vidyatharan, a Tamil newspaper editor detained on

February 26 and held since then on a vague and undefined pretext.

 

Vidyatharan, the editor of the Tamil

language newspaper Sudaroli published from Colombo

and Uthayan published from Jaffna,

was snatched from a family ceremony by unidentified persons in a kidnap-style

operation. The Sri Lankan police initially said he had been abducted, before

clarifying almost three hours later that he had been taken in for questioning

in connection with an insurgent air raid in the capital, Colombo.

 

The accusation was reiterated by Sri Lanka’s

Minister for Media and Information, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.

 

Vidyatharan’s family has had only

sporadic contact with him since his detention. They report that he has been

beaten severely in detention and has suffered injuries to his head and legs.

 

“It is beyond belief that a

newspaper editor could have been involved in this lethal air operation that

killed three and injured several,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan

White said.

 

“The IFJ learns that Vidyatharan may

have been detained on the basis of certain telephone contacts he had with the northern

Wanni area of Sri Lanka

during and after the air raid.

 

“We believe these contacts fall

within the scope of legitimate journalistic activity, and do not disclose any

motive other than to uncover facts and information about events of public

concern.”

 

In the absence of credible charges,

the Sri Lankan authorities have launched a public campaign of vilification

against Vidyatharan. A posting on the Sri Lankan Army’s website accuses him and

his newspapers of following the “terrorist line” of the Tamil Tiger insurgents.

It observes that despite its printing press being set ablaze some years back, Sudaroli has “continued its publication unhindered”.

 

Apparently with the intent of

heightening the fear psychosis within the community of Tamil journalists, the

police have called in senior office-holders of the Sri Lanka Tamil Media

Alliance (SLTMA) and questioned them about contacts with Vidyatharan.

 

“Vidyatharan’s detention and the

campaign of innuendo that has followed represent an alarming escalation in the

war on journalism in Sri

Lanka,” White said.

 

“The IFJ calls on the Sri Lankan

authorities to release him forthwith and account for the police actions in a

transparent fashion.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries