Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today about new armed attacks on the Jaffna-based Tamil daily Uthayan in which gunmen burst into its offices and threatened the journalists present twice in the space of three days.
“Uthayan is currently the worst-hit news media in the conflict between the government and the Tamil Tiger separatists, the LTTE,” the press freedom organisation said. “There are frequent armed raids on its offices and three employees have been killed in less than four months. It is not enough to post police outside the newspaper. The authorities must also arrest those carrying out the attacks and must ensure that the protection afforded the newspaper is sufficiently dissuasive to put an end to this intimidation.”
Two gunmen who entered Uthayan’s headquarters in the northern city of Jaffna on 10 September were arrested by the two policemen guarding the building before they could attack the staff, but were released a few hours later.
Three days earlier, on 7 September, two gunmen entered Uthayan and threatened its editorial committee with “severe reprisals” if it refused to publish a statement urging Jaffna’s students to call off their strike. The editor felt he had no choice but to publish the statement the next day. Uthayan managing editor E. Saravanapavan, who has often asked the authorities for help in vain, said many of his employees were refusing to leave the building for fear of being gunned down on the street.
Five gunmen burst into Uthayan on 2 May and opened fire on equipment and personnel. Four employees sustained gunshot injuries and two of them, Suresh Kumar and Ranjith Kumar, died. Sathasivam Baskaran, 44, one of the newspaper’s drivers, was killed at the wheel of a delivery truck on 15 August. An arson attack on the newspaper’s printing press on 23 August caused damaged put at 22,000 euros.