Brussels: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Brussels-based journalist union organisation has condemned the repeated attacks on Sri Lanka’s Tamil daily Uthayan.
The Tamil newspaper office in Jaffna in the Northern peninsula came under an arson attack on 13 April, just ten days after its distribution centre in Kilinochchi was attacked.
The effort to silence Uthayan after the country’s long civil war was formally declared over in May 2009, “is seen as a direct attack on post-war democracy and media freedom in the country, aimed at suppressing the dissemination of important information and diverse views among the public,” the IFJ said in its statement. The IFJ’s Sri Lankan affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM) has said in a statement released on 13 April that “the burning of the Uthayan printing press and other attacks on the Tamil media, suggests a pattern of violence that is deliberate and that powerful political elements and the security establishment are aware of but are choosing to ignore”. Warning of “serious implications of such actions for peace and reconciliation,” the FMM has demanded the Government to take appropriate action to prevent armed individuals and groups from committing violence in the north, an area that has the highest military presence in the country.
In the latest attack, three unidentified gunmen have stormed the Uthayan office in Jaffna and set fire to the printing press after chasing away the employees.
According to the FMM, Uthayan newspaper has been the target of violence for several years, with eight workers being killed since 2005.
Proprietor of Uthayan, Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian E. Saravanapavan, has said that the Chief Editor of the newspaper had written to the top police officials of the Northern Province after the 3 April attack at Kilinochchi, requesting urgent security measures. He received no response.
According to Saravanapavan, the single police officer provided to the newspaper for security since an especially violent attack in 2006, proved to be ineffective, although he was on the premises when the 13 April attack took place.
The IFJ said it endorses the demands by FMM and called on the Sri Lankan Government to set a course of action that will end the culture of impunity that has for too long, taken a heavy toll on free speech in the country.