Rights group launches campaign against attacks on Journalists in Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 30 October 2007, 08:03 GMT]
Expressing concern on the level of prevailing impunity of the killings of media personnel in Sri Lanka, the Asian Human Rights Commission, citing 11 cases where 12 Tamil media personnel were killed since 31 May 2004 till 29 April 2007, on Tuesday urged the public to write letters to the concerned Sri Lankan authorities demanding impartial investigation in order to identify and bring the perpetrators to justice. "Not a single person has been brought before the court," in the 11 cases, the AHRC noted and urged the public to forward a copy of their appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Full text of the campaign launched by the AHRC follows:

Sri Lanka: Several media personnel killed while investigation has failed

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from reliable sources concerning several cases of extra judicial killings and threats to media personnel in Sri Lanka since 2004. Few cases have been investigated and to-date not a single person has been brought before the court. The AHRC is concerned by the impunity of these killings due to the lack of investigation.

At around 8:00am on 31 May 2004, Mr. Aiyathurai Nadesan was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on a motorbike, while traveling on a motorcycle himself. The Batticaloa police launched an investigation into the killing. However, no suspect has ever been taken to court. Mr. Nadesan (48), was a renowned journalist who was very critical of the Sri Lanka Army and paramilitary groups in his widely read political column in the Sunday edition of the Virakesari.

At around 10:30pm, on 28 April 2005, Mr. Tharmaratnam ('Taraki) Sivaram (47) was abducted by four men in a white van in front of the Bambalapitya police station in Colombo. His body was later found the following morning, in Himbulala, a suburb between Jayawardhenapura hospital and the Parliament building in Colombo, with severe head injuries. This location is about 500 meters behind the parliamentary complex and lies inside a high security zone. He had been beaten and shot several times in the head. Mr. Sivaram, a senior editorial board member of TamilNet, was well known for his reporting on the political and military situation in Sri Lanka. It was reported that the investigations were blocked by the authorities even though some of the suspects known as 'pro government Tamil militia' were clearly identified by the investigators.

On the 29 July 2005, Mr. Arasakumar Kannamuthu (38), a newspaper delivery agent for the Batticaloa Eelanatham newspaper, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen, at Matupola in Kalmunai-Akkaraipattu Road, 50 kilometers south of Batticaloa. Mr. Kannamuthu, was travelling on his motorbike to Oluvil, after delivering newspapers to a Ninthavoor newspaper agent. According to witnesses, Mr. Kannamuthu was shot by two unidentified gunmen who were also riding a motorbike. The Sammanthurai police have begun an investigation into the case, and have revealed the gunmen used a 9mm handgun to shoot the victim twice in the neck. It was alleged that the Karuna group [a breakaway faction from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)] had previously threatened newspaper agents in Batticaloa and Amparai over the telephone and via fax.

At around 6:15pm, on 29 August 2005, unidentified attackers threw two grenades into the printing office of Tamil-language daily Sudar Oli, on Madampitiya Road at Grandpass in Colombo. Mr. David Selvaratnam (50) a security guard, was injured in the attack and later succumbed to his wounds at Colombo Hospital. Mr. Manickam Kamalanathan (49), a proof-reader, Mr. Subramaniyam Suthas (29), a computer operator, and Mr. A.M.F Anas, a visiting employee from Deepam TV, were also injured in the attack. Whilst one eyewitness claims the attackers fled the scene in a white van, another eyewitness claimed that the attackers escaped from the scene on a motorbike.

At around 7:30am, on 30 September 2005, Mr. Yogakumar Krishnapillai (38), a distributor of the Batticaloa-Eelanatham newspaper, was shot and killed by two unidentified gunmen. The killing took place in the heart of Batticaloa town, on central road in front of Hatton National Bank (HNB), a high security area of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA). Batticaloa Eelanatham, the only newspaper in Batticaloa, is printed in the LTTE held Kokkadichholai. On 10 September 2005, Sri Lankan Special Task Force soldiers blocked the sales of the Eelanatham paper in SLA controlled areas of Batticaloa and Amparai districts.

At around 6am, on 24 January 2006, Mr. Subramaniam Sugirtharajan (35), a correspondent for "Sudar Oli," a Tamil-language daily, was shot dead by unidentified men close to his home, whilst waiting for public transport to go to work. His killers fled the scene on a motorbike. Residents in Trincomalee said that Mr. Sugirtharajan was instrumental in exposing the involvement of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) in the Killing of five Trincomalee students.

At around 7:45pm, on 2 May 2006, five armed paramilitary gunmen entered the main office of the Jaffna daily Uthayan, and opened fire on editorial staff. The Marketing Manger, Bastian George Sagayathas (known as 'Suresh', 37), and Rajaratnam Ranjith (25) were also killed. Two other staff at the office, S. Uthayakumar and N. Thayakaran, were rushed to Jaffna Hospital with wounds. According to eyewitnesses, the five gunmen fired over forty gunshots, using T-56 rifles and a handgun. Eyewitnesses in the area identified one of the attackers, wearing all black, as an Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP) paramilitary cadre.

At around 7:20pm, on 21 August 2006, Mr. Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah was shot and killed at his temporary residence in Tellippalai, 14 kilometers northeast of Jaffna. Mr. Sivamaharajah (68), was the managing director of Tamil-language daily "Namathu Eelanadu" (Our Eelam Nation) and the veteran chairman of the Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society (MPCS) in Tellippalai, Jaffna. Mr. Sivamaharajah was a former member of parliament for the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and a senior member of Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), the main constituent party of the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

On February 1, 2007, Mr. S. T. Gananathan (64), was shot dead 200 meters from the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) camp at Mampalam junction in Ariyalai. He had been the president of the Jaffna Multi Purpose Co-Operative Society (MPCS). His predecessor, Mr. Solomen Sri, had left Jaffna in December 2005 after receiving death threats.

CASE 10:
At about 7:30pm, on 16 April 2007, Mr. Subash Chandraboas (32), editor of the monthly magazine "Nilam" (the Ground) was shot dead at his residence in Thirunavatkulam, Vavuniya. Mr. Chandraboas studied at the College of Journalism and had trained with the national daily 'Virakesari'. He had also worked for other Tamil publications, including the London-based magazine "Tamil World" as a freelance journalist. His eight-year old child confirmed that the assassins spoke Tamil and Sinhala. According to newspaper reports, 25 civilians were killed in Vavuniya during the first eighteen days of April, 2007.

CASE 11:
At around 10 am, on 29 April 2007, Mr. Selvarajah Rajivarman, a young journalist working at Jaffna's 'Uthayan' newspaper, was shot and killed by gunmen riding on a motorbike at Naavalar Road, Rasaavin Thoaddam junction in Jaffna. According to Uthayan officials, Mr. Rajivarman (25) was on duty seeking information on recent crimes in Jaffna. Mr. Rajivarman had been working as a staff reporter Uthayan for 6 months.

The AHRC is concerned that no serious investigations have started even though each complaint by the families of the victims have been made before the Human Rights Commission of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The AHRC is also concerned that this series of killings has emerged due to the lack of investigation and punishment against those responsible. No a single responsible person has been brought to book or punished according to the law since it happened 2004.

Please write letters to the concerned authorities requesting them to ensure that a thorough, impartial investigation is conducted into all of the above mentioned cases, in order to identify and bring the perpetrators to justice. Please also urge them to take all efforts to stop ongoing attacks and killings of media personnel in Sri Lanka.

External Links:
AHRC: SRI LANKA: Several media personnel killed while investigation has failed


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