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
“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
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
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