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Sri Lanka 30 August 2006

Kidnapped Tamil journalist freed but climate of fear persists

Reporters Without Borders voiced relief on learning that Nadarajah Guruparan, the news director of the Colombo-based Tamil radio station Sooriyan, was freed early today after being held for 20 hours by his kidnappers, who told him he had been abducted “for a purpose”.

Guruparan was released six kilometers from the place near his home in a Colombo suburb where he was abducted as he headed to work yesterday. He was blindfolded for the entire time and never got a glimpse of his kidnappers.

His abduction is the latest example of the dramatic deterioration in the situation of press freedom in Sri Lanka. Cases of journalists and media assistants being threatened or murdered have increased sharply in recent months without any measures being taken to stop it. Guruparan said today he was wondering whether to continue working as a journalist.

29.08.06 - Mounting concern about government’s failure to protect journalists as tamil radio director is kidnapped

“The press freedom situation is alarming in Sri Lanka,” the organisation said. “Cases of threats, attacks and murders have increased over the past few months without anything being done to stop them. Both the government authorities and the Tamil Tiger separatists deny the right to information of those that do not support them. We call for Nadarajah Guruparan’s immediate release as well as a real commitment from the authorities to protect journalists.”

A witness said Nadarajah Guruparan, the news director of the Colombo-based Tamil radio station Sooriyan, had just left his home to go to work when four men pulled him out if his car and bundled him into another vehicle. They also took his car, which was found a few kilometres away several hours later. The Mount Lavinia police is in charge of investigating the kidnapping.

Guruparan’s last report prior to his kidnapping, broadcast on 26 August, was about human rights violations and kidnappings in the capital. His radio station had reportedly received several threats from paramilitary organisations. A few weeks ago, the authorities had expressed its discontent about the way the fighting between the government forces and the Tamil separatists was being covered by the Asian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), a network in which Sooryan is the most popular Tamil station.

Guruparan’s abduction comes just 10 days after the murder of Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, the editor of the Tamil daily Namathu Eelanadu (Our Eelam Nation). Six other journalists and media assistants have been killed in Sri Lanka since the start of the year. The attacks on the press have increased since the resumption of fighting between the government and rebels.

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