Reporters Without Borders urged Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen - visiting Colombo on 25-30 July to relaunch the peace process - to promote press freedom in his meetings with the government, the Tamil Tigers and opposition figures.
The organisation’s 28 July appeal comes two days after two armed men, suspected of being LTTE members, shot journalist Sadacharalingam Kamaladas wounding him seriously in both legs at his home in Ariyampathi, Batticaloa district in the east of the country. The 25-year old, of the Tamil-language weekly Thinamurusu, was being treated in hospital in Batticaloa.
"We are extremely concerned at the rapid deterioration in security for Sri Lankan journalists in the east of the country," the organisation wrote to Mr Helgesen. "Since the killing of a correspondent in Batticaloa region at the end of May, without any condemnation from a single minister, two other journalists have been forced to flee the area and take refuge in the capital." These attacks were attributed to a group that split away from the LTTE.
The safety situation in the East of Sri Lanka has deteriorated in the past few months after a dissident group led by V Muraleetharan alias Karuna has broken away from the Tamil Tigers and is allegedly being supported by sections of the Sri Lankan Military.
"Since this latest attack there is hardly a journalist left to work in this region, such is the climate of threat from all sides," said the organisation. "The lack of any real investigation or trials in the murders of journalists over the last four years has allowed complete impunity, which must now be brought to an end."
"The Sri Lankan government should act urgently, under the guidance of the Norwegian authorities, so that reporters, threatened by both LTTE forces and the government security forces, can do their job of informing the public without risking their lives," it concluded.
The weekly Thinamurusu, close to the pro-government Tamil party the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) is regularly harassed by its rival the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). In 2002, its editor was brutally beaten by LTTE members. At the start of this year, the LTTE tried to prevent the newspaper being distributed in the east of the country.
Reporters Without Borders on 13 July 2004, released a report of an in-depth investigation into the threat to Sri Lankan journalists in the country’s eastern region. It is available in three languages (English, Sinhalese and French) on the website: www.rsf.org.