Chennai journalists demand Vithyatharan's immediate release
[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 February 2009, 19:34 GMT]
Over a hundred journalists held a demonstration in Chennai near the State Guest House on Saturday to condemn the increasing attacks on the media in Sri Lanka and the recent abduction and arrest of well-known Tamil newspaper editor Nadesapillai Vithyatharan. The participants were from the Chennai Press Club, the Madras Union of Journalists, The Madras Reporters' Guild, and 'Journalists against Fascism'.
The journalists, belonging to various organisations and associations of mediapersons, carried placards denouncing the attacks on the media and the killing of journalists and shouted slogans condemning the Sri Lankan government.
The demonstration was also directed against P M Amza, Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner, Chennai, who had issued a threatening legal notice to Tamil bi-weekly 'Naakkheeran' for carrying a cover story denouncing Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in connection with the ongoing genocidal war against Tamils. Besides demanding the immediate release of Vithyatharan, the protesters also condemned the blacking out of Tamil television channels such as Makkal TV and Tamizhan TV in an attempt to muzzle the free dissemination of information regarding the large-scale civilian casualties caused by aerial bombing and artillery shelling in the ongoing war, including in designated safety zones and hospitals.
They also demanded action against policemen and lawyers who had beaten up journalists and photographers during the recent clash between policemen and advocates in the Madras High Court premises.
Carrying placards saying 'Don't kill journalists', 'Don't attack journalists', the journalists shouted slogans condemning the Sri Lankan government, its military and its mission in Chennai. Carrying large-size photographs of Vithyatharan, they shouted slogans demanding his immediate release.
Speaking on the occasion, senior journalists and representatives of various media associations highlighted the perilous circumstances in which the media was working in Sri Lanka, especially in the aftermath of the brutal murder of the Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickramatunga. Expressing concern over the abduction of Vithyatharan, later described the Colombo police as an 'arrest', they recalled that well-known journalist and analyst D Sivaram alias 'Taraki' had been abducted and was later found dead. They also referred to other attacks on the media, including Sinhala journalists, and voiced concern over the deterioration of democratic freedoms, especially freedom of expression and the freedom of the media, in Sri Lanka.
Referring to India's stand that it would not support a 'dictatorship' in northern Sri Lanka, they questioned how it was tolerating dictatorship in southern Sri Lanka. They charged that Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka appeared to be calling the shots in the administration and were behind the serious of instances of suppression of dissent.
Those who spoke on the occasion included R Mohan, K Venkataramanan, S Murari, T Arul Ezhilan, M Gunasekaran, Prakash, Bharathi Tamizhan, Susi Thirugnanam, Paa Krishnan, Durai Karunanidhi and P Thirumavelan. Participants included journalists drawn from various media houses, including Dinakaran, Ananda Vikatan, Junior Vikatan, Nakkheeran, Kungumam, Tamizhaga Arasiyal, Makkal TV, Tamil Osai, The Times of India, The New Indian Express, Deccan Chronicle, The Week, among other publications.