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Sri Lanka 5 May 2006

Gunmen open fire inside Tamil newspaper, killing two employees

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the murder of two employees in a shooting attack on the Tamil-language daily newspaper Uthayan in the northern city of Jaffna on 2 May, a day after it carried a cartoon of pro-government Tamil leader Douglas Devananda of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).

“We appeal to the authorities to carry out an investigation that quickly leads to the arrest of those responsible,” Reporters Without Borders. “Suspicion once again falls on the EPDP, which is known for using intimidation and violence. As this attack followed the publication of a cartoon of Devananda, we urge the police to question the EPDP’s leaders as part of their enquiries.”

The attack occurred as dozens of news media representatives were gathering in Colombo to mark World Press Freedom Day the following day. Five gunmen burst in Uthayan’s offices in Jaffna and demanded to see deputy editor R. Kuhanathan. Once learning he was not there, they opened fire on staff and equipment.

Marketing manager Suresh Kumar, 35, and another employee, Ranjith Kumar, 28, were shot dead. Two others sustained bullet wounds and several computers were destroyed. Uthayan has already been the target of militia attacks in the past.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the failure to identify and punish those responsible for the murders of other journalists such as Mayilvaganam Nimalarajan, a contributor to the BBC and several Sri Lankan media, and Dharmeratnam Sivaram, the editor of the Tamilnet news website and a columnist for the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror newspaper.

A Reporters Without Borders representative who went to Sri Lanka for World Press Freedom Day spoke to many journalists in Jaffna who said they were constantly being threatened because of their work and lived in fear.

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