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Sri Lanka 1 June 2004

Tamil journalist gunned down in east of country

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today condemned at the murder of Tamil journalist Aiyathurai Nadesan in Batticaloa (220 km east of Colombo) and voiced concern that dissension within the Tamil separatist movement could lead to an escalation of violation against the news media.

"We call on the authorities to keep us informed of progress in the investigation into this new crime against the press," the organisation said. A copy of the letter has been sent to Gen. Shantha Kottegoda, the new army commander in eastern Sri Lanka.

Nadesan was gunned down as he was going to work at about 8:00 a.m. by two men on a motorcycle who got away. His body was taken to the local hospital where an autopsy was carried out.

Nadesan worked for the daily Virakesari Tamil, the Tamil-language service of the London-based radio station IBC and several online media. He was known for criticising the Sri Lankan army and paramilitary groups in his weekly column in Virakesari Tamil’s Sunday edition.

His murder comes amid a resurgence of violence linked to a split within the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). Nadesan was considered to be close to LTTE.

A prominent member of the local press, Nadesan received the prize for the best Tamil journalist in 2000. He was briefly detained in July 2001 and threatened by an army officer with prosecution under the Prevention of Terrorism Act because of his criticism of the government and the security forces. He was married and had three children.

An envoy of the press freedom organisation recently met Nadesan in Batticaloa and the journalist described the problems local journalists were facing.

Mayilvaganam Nimalarajan, a Jaffna-based stringer for the Sinhala-language service of the BBC World Service, was killed in October 2000 at a time of tension within the different Tamil movements. Despite national and international pressure, his murder remains unpunished.




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