Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay about the cost to the press of heightened political tension in the country where over a two-day period one Tamil journalist was arrested and three others assaulted by members of the security forces.
"Instead of calming down the situation, the police and the army are carrying out unjustified arrests that only stir up resentments. The security forces and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) should guarantee the safety of Sri Lankan journalists whatever their origin," the international press freedom organisation said.
Reporters T. Sabeswaran, Winston Jeyan and J. Jerad, working respectively for the Tamil language dailies Thinakkural, Thinakaran and Namathu Eelanadu, were clubbed while covering a student demonstration in the northern city of Jaffna on 19 December. Their work equipment was also damaged.
Two days earlier, on 17 December, B. Parathipan, a lawyer and renowned journalist working for the Tamil language daily Thinakkural and two other staff at the newspaper, Kulukulan and Prameshwaran, were held in custody overnight after being stopped at a Colombo checkpoint.
Even though they produced their identity papers and press cards issued by the authorities, the three men were taken successively to two police posts.
Police officers took fingerprints and photos of B. Parathipan and his two colleagues without giving them any explanation. They were only released after the intervention of a Tamil parliamentarian.
Army officers searched the offices of Tamil newspaper Namathu Eelanadu in Jaffna on 15 December and conducted lengthy interrogations of several staff.