Threat to Jaffna journalists from SLA, paramilitaries

[TamilNet, Monday, 21 April 2008, 04:20 GMT]
Journalists in Jaffna face continued threats to their lives and harassment from Sri Lanka Army (SLA) troopers and SLA-backed paramilitaries, severely impacting news coverage, and the deteriorating media freedom may lead to a complete breakdown of newspaper publications in the North, sources close to Jaffna district Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarians told TamilNet Sunday.

After a lull in the killings of journalists, recently SLA has once again begun to meddle in the activities of journalists. Recently a fisherman was killed by SLA artillery fire while fishing in Kudaakkadal area but the news was blacked out due to the threats issued to the Editor of Thinnakural news paper.

Friday night four unidentified armed men stormed into the office of Thinnakural demanding information about the reporter who filed a news item about a peaceful prayer rally held in Thumpalai, Point Pedro in Vadamaraadchci.

The rally jointly organized by a number of catholic churches in the area was a peaceful procession dubbed "Prayer rally," calling for complete cessation of all hostilities in the vicinity of the holy shrine of Our Lady of Madhu and return of the statue to the shrine.

The office of Jaffna based Tamil newspaper Eelanaadu has been already shut down, and with Colombo-published newspapers rarely reaching Jaffna, the civilians in the North are compelled to depend only on the three local newspapers Uthayan, Thinakkural and Valampuri published in Jaffna, civil society sources said.

The recent escalation of threats against journalists and interference with the activities of these news paper offices by both SLA and paramilitary operatives have already affected the normal activities of these local news papers.

On 02 May 2006, Five gunmen burst into Uthayan office and opened fire on equipment and personnel. Four employees sustained gunshot injuries and two of them, Suresh Kumar and Ranjith Kumar, died.

Last year Selvarajah Rajivarman, 25, a young journalist working at Jaffna's Uthayan newspaper was shot dead 29 April by unidentified gunmen riding in a motorbike at Naavalar Road, Rasaavin Thoaddam junction around 10:00 a.m. prompting many journalists to flee from the North.

After an interval of three months Sahathevan Deluxshan, 22, a young media student at Jaffna University Media Research and Training Center and a part time journalist was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on motor cycle in front of his house.

Deluxahan was one of the editors of 'Chaa'laram', a popular student magazine published by Jaffna District Student Federation.

The slow deterioration of media freedom, including the attempts by SLA-backed paramilitaries to continue to threaten local editors and journalists into censoring and controlling local news will inevitably lead to disappearance of newsprint from Jaffna, civil society sources warned.

 

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