Targeting of Sri Lankan Media Continues as Violence Escalates

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is horrified by the continued targeted violence against media workers in Sri Lanka, which this week saw the murder of the managing director of Namathu Eelanadu, and arson attacks which destroyed two newspaper warehouses.

Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, managing director of the Jaffna Tamil daily, was reportedly shot dead at his residence Tellippalai Jaffna, on Sunday August 20.

According to an IFJ affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM) Sivamaharajah was a former parliamentarian and a senior member of Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), the main constituent party of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

“The IFJ is appalled at the apparent blatant disregard for the life of media workers in Sri Lanka, with this latest murder another devastating addition to the string of recent targeted killings against journalists and media personnel,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

Two days earlier, on August 18, two warehouses of the Jaffna-based Udayan newspaper were reportedly burned down by unidentified persons. According to the FMM the destroyed buildings contained newsprint and electronic items worth around three million Sri Lankan rupees (approximately US$29,000).

The Udayan newspaper has reportedly made official complaints to the Jaffna police regarding the attack, and the IFJ demands a full investigation into this crime.

The IFJ also shares the concerns of the FMM that the Udayan newspaper group, the oldest and highest selling newspaper in war-torn Jaffna, has been facing continued targeted harassment for months, including the murder of four employees, the bombing of its newspaper premises, and death threats against senior figures in the group.

The IFJ, the global organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 counties, stands in solidarity with the staff of the Udayan and commends the group for continuing to provide vital information to the community despite immense obstacles and unending harassment.

“It is inspiring that even in times of conflict the media of Sri Lanka are not giving up and are continuing to fight for a free press and the public’s right to be informed,” Warren said.

According to the FMM the government withdrew security provided to the general manager of Udayan and one of its editors last week.

The IFJ reinforces its calls for the Sri Lankan government to intervene and re-instate security for Udayan staff and to establish solid protections for all media workers and their institutions.

“These targeted attacks can no longer continue. The very essence of freedom of expression and a strong and effective media is at stake. We demand all parties respect the rights of journalists and media organisations to report freely and without fear for their safety,” Warren said.

The IFJ gives its unwavering support to the media of Sri Lanka during this troubled time.

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

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries