Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today condemned the persistent attempts of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) to silence the Tamil-language weekly Thinamurasu, in particular the ambush of a Thinamurasu distribution truck on 7 August by some 50 armed LTTE activists, who torched 5,000 copies of the newspaper after forcing the truck to stop at Sunkankeni, near the eastern town to Batticaloa.
In a letter to S. P. Tamilselvan, the head of the LTTE’s political wing, the organisation called on the LTTE to put an end to its threats and acts of violence against Thinamurasu’s editorial staff and distributors.
Reporters Without Borders said it was essential for the Tamil population to have access to a diverse range of news sources, all the more so now that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have just made very serious accusations against the LTTE.
Following the ambush, the newspaper’s managing editor filed a complaint with the Norwegian observers in charge of monitoring compliance with the truce between the LTTE and the government.
Thinamurasu (which means Daily Drumbeat) is one of the biggest-circulation newspapers in Tamil and it often reports human rights violations, including executions and abductions, by the LTTE in the east and north of the country.
Editor T. Baskaran told Reporters Without Borders that his newspaper was the only Tamil-language one to report human rights violations. "We must pay the price of our independence because the LTTE expects all the Tamil news media to say nothing about its violence. Those who don’t obey are harassed."
Thinamurasu supports the EPDP, a Tamil political party that is radically opposed to the LTTE, and it has been the target of threats and attacks for years. In June, the LTTE leader in the northwestern district of Mannar threatened Thinamurasu’s local correspondents with "the worst consequences" if their newspaper continued to be distributed in the region.
The newspaper’s distributor in the east of the island pulled out of his distribution contract in March 2002 after receiving LTTE threats. In May and in June 2002, the LTTE banned the newspaper from circulating in Batticaloa. Norwegian observers had to intervene to get it back on sale. In November 1999, Thinamurasu’s then managing editor Nadarajah Atputharajah alias "Ramesh", who was also an EPDP parliamentarian, was murdered in Jaffna. It was never established who killed him or why.