Reacting to April 3 armed attack on the Tamil newspaper Uthayan in the northern city of Kilinochchi, Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS), call on the authorities to do whatever is necessary to prevent journalists from being harassed and physically attacked.
Two employees were seriously injured when six masked men armed with cricket stumps staged a pre-dawn attack on Uthayan’s distribution office, damaging equipment and vehicles.
“This invasion of Uthayan’s premises, the use of violence against two employees and the destruction of equipment the newspaper needs for its operations are quite simply unacceptable,” the two organizations said.
“Even if the authorities order an investigation, it is unlikely to lead to a conviction and this disgraceful crime will almost certainly go unpunished. After the censorship of the BBC’s Tamil-language broadcasts, this attack constitutes a further blow to the Tamil people’s right to information.”
The two organizations added: “The priority for Uthayan now is to resume publishing as soon as possible so that the Tamil community can again benefit from independently reported news and information.”
The six intruders took advantage of the arrival of a distribution truck to enter Uthayan’s distribution centre and carry out the attack. The two employees who were injured were taken to Kilinochchni Hospital.
A Tamil-language opposition daily that supports the Tamil National Alliance, Uthayan has been the target of attacks in the past, especially in 2011, when its news editor , Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, and one of its reporters, S. Kavitharan, were the victims of violence.
The motive for the attack is not yet known but Uthayan’s staff think it was prompted by a series of articles about army involvement in the seizure of land from Tamils. The newspaper had received several indirect warnings and Tamil media reported last week that military intelligence officers had been seeking information about the newspaper.
An Uthayan distributor was attacked on 10 January and the newspapers he was carrying were burned. The newspaper’s editor Premananth Thevanayagam, was summoned by the Criminal Investigation Department on 18 January for questioning about an article implicating senior army officers.