IFJ Welcomes Release of Tamil Editor in Sri Lanka

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes the release of

Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, editor of the Tamil daily newspaper Sudar Oli,

after almost two months in detention in Sri Lanka.

 

Although no charges

were laid against Vithyatharan, officials of the Crime Branch of the Sri Lankan

police had requested a magistrate’s court on March 18 for an extension of his

detention, while his alleged involvement in an insurgent air raid on Colombo on February 20 was

investigated.

 

In ordering

the editor’s release on April 24, a court in Colombo took on board the admission by the

Crime Branch and other security agencies that there was no evidence linking Vithyatharan

with any unlawful activity.

 

“The IFJ calls

on Sri Lanka’s

authorities to acknowledge the injustice they have perpetrated against Vithyatharan

and to account for their actions,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan

White said.

 

Senior government

officials, with direct responsibility for the war operations against Tamil

insurgents that today are reportedly in their final stages, took a direct

interest in the case against Vithyatharan.

 

Hours after

his February 26 arrest, which was conducted in the manner of an abduction while

Vithyatharan was attending a family ceremony, the principal spokesman for all Sri Lanka’s

national security agencies, including the defence forces, justified it on the

grounds that he was a “wanted person”.

 

In an

interview with an Australian news channel just over a fortnight later, Sri Lanka’s

Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, accused Vithyatharan of “terrorism”. As

broadcast over the news channel, Rajapaksa said, “He is involved in recent air

attacks and I am telling you if you try to give (a) cover-up for that person

you have blood in your hands [...] I am telling you he is a terrorist. He is

responsible for coordinating air-attacks in Colombo.”

 

“The public

utterances of senior Sri Lankan officials against Vithyatharan amount to an

outrageous attack on his integrity,” White said.

 

“At the

minimum, there must be a public apology from all the officials who have engaged

in the campaign of character assassination, at a time when the public mood is

fraught and the consequences of loose speech could be fatal.”

 

The IFJ notes

with concern that all government-controlled media – the radio and television channels

under the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and the newspapers under the Lake House

group – have failed to report on Vithyatharan’s unconditional discharge and

release.

 

The IFJ

extends its full support to Vithyatharan in his effort to obtain redress

through writ petition in the Supreme Court, alleging a violation of his

fundamental rights.

 

For

further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents

over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries