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Sri Lanka 4 September 2006

Maharaja Television employee released after being held more than 15 hours

Thavarajah Thavamni, a Tamil employee of Maharaja Television (MTV), was released during the evening of 1 September, more than 15 hours after she was kidnapped in Colombo. Her abductors are said to have been military intelligence officers who wanted to interrogate her about what she did when she was working for the Sri Lankan central bank.

01.09.06 - Gunmen kidnap young Tamil woman employed by TV group in Colombo

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern about the abduction today in Colombo of Thavarajah Thavamni, a young Tamil woman employed by Maharaja Television (MTV). The motives for the kidnapping are not yet known but her uncle, opposition parliamentarian T. Maheswaran, told Reporters Without Borders it could be linked to her work for the media.

“Coming just a few days after the abduction of leading Tamil radio journalist Nadarajah Guruparan, this new case casts even more doubt on the ability of the authorities to guarantee the safety of the Tamil population, especially journalists, in government-controlled areas,” the press freedom organisation said. “We urge everyone to actively press for the release of this young MTV employee.”

Thavamni, 26, was abducted this morning in the Wellawatte district of Colombo by at least six gunmen in civilian dress. Her family, which reported the kidnapping to the police, has not received any demands from her abductors.

Military intelligence officers raided her home a month ago and she was subsequently questioned by the police criminal investigation department (CID) for no apparent reason.

Thavamni only recently began working for the information technology department of the MTV group, which has three TV channels: MTV, Sirasa TV and Shakthi TV. An engineer by training, she previously worked for the Sri Lankan central bank.

Maheswaran, a parliamentary representative of the opposition UNP party, told Reporters Without Borders: “We have evidences that military intelligence officers are linked to her kidnapping. This is outrageous. We need help from everyone to get her released (...) More and more civilians are being kidnapped in Colombo. Tamil businessmen are subject to extortion and journalists are being threatened.”

Guruparan, the news manager of the Tamil radio station Sooriyan, was kidnapped on 29 in the Colombo suburb of Mount Lavinia just after leaving home to go to work. He was freed a day later. Since then he has been in hiding and believes his life is still in danger.

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