Sri Lanka: Tamil newspaper editor killed in Jaffna

New York, August 21, 2006—A Tamil newspaper editor and former member of parliament was killed outside his home on the besieged Jaffna Peninsula late Sunday, international and local media reported. Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, managing director of the Tamil-language Namathu Eelanadu newspaper was shot dead in Vellippalai. Police are investigating the murder, according to news reports. The motive for the killing is unclear.

Telephone connections to Jaffna are unavailable amid intensified fighting that has killed hundreds of Tamil separatists and soldiers in the last week, according to international news reports.

“We are concerned that the killing of Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah could be part of a pattern of violence against Tamil journalists and media workers covering this conflict,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The targeting of journalists must cease. Authorities should conduct a thorough investigation into this murder and prosecute those responsible.”

Sivamaharajah, 68, was a former MP of the Tamil United Liberation Front, and a member of the Tamil National Alliance, a pro-separatist party thought to be the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels. His newspaper, Namathu Eelanadu, is sympathetic to the Tamil nationalist cause.

The Tamil nationalist Web site TamilNet said that Sivamaharajah’s home was inside a security zone controlled by the Sri Lankan military, and was under curfew at the time of the killing. The Ministry of Defense denied that Sivamaharajah’s house was in the zone, and it accused the LTTE of the murder.

Three Tamil journalists—Subramaniyam Sugitharajah, Dharmeratnam Sivaram and Relangi Selvarajah—have been killed for their work since the beginning of 2005.

Warehouses containing printing equipment of another Jaffna-based Tamil newspaper, Uthayan, were burned down on Friday by unidentified men, according to the Colombo-based press advocacy group Free Media Movement (FMM). On Tuesday, an Uthayan driver was killed in Jaffna, the fourth employee of the newspaper group to be killed in recent months, according to FMM.