Pattern of intimidation and murder to silence independent Tamil journalists

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 02 June 2004, 11:50 GMT]
“Nadesan had been harassed and threatened before his death because he had criticized the government and security forces, according to CPJ research”, the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement condemning the murder of the veteran Tamil journalist in Batticaloa on Sri Lanka’s east coast. Meanwhile Mr. Nadesan’s colleagues in the east demanded investigations into “the pattern of intimidation and murder to silence Tamil journalists”.

A. Nadesan
Aiyathurai Nadesan
"On June 17, 2001, a Sri Lankan army officer summoned Nadesan for an interrogation and threatened the journalist with arrest unless he ceased reporting about the army", the CPJ said.

"We are outraged by the murder of Aiyathurai Nadesan and urge authorities to find and punish those responsible for this crime," said Executive Director of CPJ Ms. Ann Cooper.

Mr. Nadesan’s home was attacked on 3 April 2000. Unidentified gunmen lobbed grenade on his house around midnight. The house was damaged but Nadesan escaped unhurt.

Mr. Nadesan had been threatened on several occasions earlier for his reporting. On 2 September 2001, the Northeast Provincial Council (NEPC) announced that it had selected Mr. Nadesan’s book, ‘The History of the Ethnic Contradiction in Sri Lanka’ for a special award. Later that month NEPC cancelled the award for Mr. Nadesan on a special directive issued by the Sri Lankan government. NEPC officials said the award was stopped for political reasons.

A week before Colombo intervened to stop Mr. Nadesan’s award, state owned media attacked him for his views and his reporting about the situation in Batticaloa.

State owned and pro- Sri Lanka army Sinhala nationalist media regularly brand independent Tamil journalists as supporters of the Liberation Tigers.

Mr. Nadesan was no exception. The accusation is often leveled against independent Tamil journalists working in the war zones of the island by the state media and Sinhala nationalists with a view to intimidating them and discrediting their work – especially their coverage of human rights violations in the northeast.

Sinhala nationalist media and the leader of the paramilitary group accused in courts of murdering the BBC Sinhala service journalist, Mr. Mayilvaganam Nimalarajan, said he (who was also the TamilNet’s correspondent for Jaffna) was a sympathizer of the Liberation Tigers.

"There is a similar campaign in Colombo to discredit Nadesan and his work – and more insidiously to subtly justify his murder", said one of his colleagues in Batticaloa.

A senior official of the East Lanka Journalists’ Association said: "There is a clear pattern of intimidation and murder aimed at silencing Tamil journalists here in the east. This is obvious from the secret smear campaign against us sponsored by a paramilitary group working with the Sri Lanka army in Batticaloa”.

Mr. Aiyathurai Nadesan was shot and killed on Monday, May 31, by unidentified assailants in Batticaloa.

Mr. Nadesan, who worked with the national Tamil-language daily Virakesari for 20 years, was on his way to work Monday morning when he was gunned down by assailants suspected to be members of a paramilitary group operating with the Sri Lanka army, local journalists said.

He also reported for the International Broadcast Group, a Tamil-language radio station that broadcasts from London.

His home is in the high security zone of the Sri Lanka army's 233 brigade headquarters and is in the vicinity of the well defended camps of four Tamil paramilitary groups and the military intelligence in the heart of Batticaloa town. The Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF - Varatharajapperumal faction), the Razeek group (a Tamil paramilitary unit of the SLA) and the People's Liberation Organisation of Thamil Eelam (PLOTE) have their fortified offices cum camps in this neighbourhood.

The local unit of the SLA's military intelligence also has its camp in the area.

A spokesman for the Eastern Journalists Association said at the time it was virtually impossible for anyone to lob a grenade at a house in this high security zone and walk away undetected.


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