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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JANUARY 7, 2003

Senitharajah Jeyanandamoorthy, Virakesari, TamilNet

Unidentified men set fire to the home of Jeyanandamoorthy, a correspondent from the eastern city of Batticaloa for the Tamil-language newspaper Virakesari. The journalist and his family escaped without injury and, with the help of neighbors, managed to put out the fire.

Jeyanandamoorthy also reports for the Web site TamilNet, which focuses on news affecting Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority. He had recently published articles for TamilNet and Virakesari accusing Islamic extremists of causing trouble in eastern Sri Lanka. TamilNet reported that Jeyanandamoorthy had received death threats in the past from Muslim groups.

Tensions between Tamils, who are mostly Hindu, and Muslims are especially acute in eastern Sri Lanka, where the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have fought for years for an independent Tamil state.

MAY 7, 2003

Ponniah Manikavasagam, Virakesari

Manikavasagam, a correspondent for the Tamil-language daily Virakesari who also contributes regularly to the BBC, received a death threat from an anonymous caller at around 10:05 p.m. The caller warned him, "We have been watching you. You are dancing too much. You will be killed very soon." The journalist said that the caller, who was male and spoke in Tamil, then made a crude remark suggesting that Manikavasagam supports the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and added, "When you are killed, you will know who we are."

The call came just minutes after Manikavasagam had broadcast a report on the BBC's Tamil service about efforts by foreign mediators to revive the faltering peace process. In the report, Manikavasagam used an audio clip of a statement made by Anton Balasingham, chief negotiator for the Tamil Tigers, who defended the group's decision to suspend peace negotiations with the government. Police in Vavuniya traced the call to an office run by the Varatharajah Perumal faction of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front, a group that is strongly opposed to the Tigers, in the northwestern coastal town of Mannar.

JULY 25, 2003

Lasantha Wickramatunga, The Sunday Leader
Victor Ivan, Ravaya
Rohana Kumara, Satana

Sri Lanka's Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Mahinda Wijesekera threatened to kill Wickramatunga, editor of The Sunday Leader, while the minister was in Parliament in front of several other government ministers and parliamentarians, according to a July 27 report in The Sunday Leader. Wijesekera reportedly made the threat because Wickramatunga had accused him of corruption in a series of articles. Water Resources Minister Lakshman Seneviratne, who was present at that session of Parliament, informed Wickramatunga of Wijesekera's threat.

According to the Colombo-based Free Media Movement, although Wijesekera issued a statement denying making the threat, he then made a second death threat against Wickramatunga a week later, on August 4, while in a meeting with civil servants—where he also threatened to kill Ivan, editor of Ravaya newspaper, and Kumara, editor of Satana newspaper. Though local and international media organizations have called for action against the minister, Sri Lanka's United National Front government has yet to investigate him.