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Sri Lanka 7 December 2006

Government asked to guarantee distribution of Tamil newspapers in east of country

Reporters Without Borders today called on media and information minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa to act quickly to ensure that all Tamil newspapers can circulate freely in areas controlled by the government.

A pro-government militia led by Tamil warlord Karuna has reimposed a ban on the Sunday edition of the newspaper Virakesari, with the result that the last two issues were unable to circulate in the east of the country. This means the Sunday editions of all three Tamil dailies - Thinakural, Virakesari and Sudar Oli - cannot circulate because of threats to distributors by the militia.

Karuna banned all four of the Virakesari press group’s newspapers on 23 October. Sales were able to resume after the government issued a statement condemning this press freedom violation. The president himself ordered the chief of police to prevent further attacks on Tamil newspapers on 27 October. A ban on Sudar Oli and Thinakural has been in effect for much longer.

Enforcement of the ban is strictest in the Batticaloa region, where distributors regularly receive death threats. On the other hand, there are no obstacles to distribution of the governmental Tamil newspaper Thinakaran.




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