CPJ condemns attacks on Tamil media

New York, September 6, 2005 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a spate of attacks on the Tamil-language newspaper Sudar Oli, including the killing of a printing press security guard and assaults on reporters.

“We call on the authorities to investigate these vicious attacks and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “The government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of journalists whose lives are increasingly endangered by political violence.”

Assailants have twice thrown hand grenades into Sudar Oli premises. On August 29, two men lobbed grenades into the building housing the printing press, killing a guard and injuring two other staff members. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse last week condemned the attack as an assault on freedom of expression. On August 21 two grenades were tossed into the paper’s advertising office but failed to explode.

On August 30 two parliamentary reporters were assaulted while they waited for a bus, according to the Colombo-based Free Media Movement (FMM) and international news reports. One was seriously injured. A photographer was set upon and robbed on August 23 while covering a rally of the People’s Liberation Front (JVP) to protest killings by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). JVP activists turned the photographer over to the police on suspicion of being an LTTE member. He was released the next day.

Sudar Oli
and its Jaffna-based sister publication Uthayan have come under attack by both LTTE and anti-LTTE forces in Sri Lanka’s civil conflict. A top leader of the JVP recently issued a public condemnation of the newspaper, accusing it of having LTTE ties. Increased political violence in recent months has put Tamil journalists at particular risk. In April, senior Tamil journalist Dharmeratnam Sivaram was abducted outside a Colombo restaurant and murdered, and in August, popular Tamil broadcaster Relangi Selvarajah was shot and killed with her husband in the capital.