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Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists

Murderous Attack at Uthayan Newspaper Office

The Truth.... & The Cover Up
Sri Lanka's Tribute To World Press Freedom Day marked with Blood and Death in Tamil News Office

"Tuesday (2 May 2006) Night Raid by five armed paramilitaries attached to the Sri Lanka army ended in two journalists dead, three seriously injured and the entire office smashed and reduced to a heap of debris. Five paramilitary gunmen, 4 with T-56 rifles and the fifth with a pistol bulldozed into the Udhayan Tamil Newspaper office, at Kasthuriyar Road, Jaffna and sprayed bullets all around. For Thevasagayam Suresh, the marketing manager and S.Ranjith, 24, a technical staff, death by government paramilitary bullet was instantaneous, on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day. Newspaper staff scattered in different directions, some taking cover under the tables. Two of the editorial staff on the upper floor hid themselves behind furniture till gunmen left. No computer was spared. They were reduced to a pulp."

D.B.S. Jeyaraj on Attack on Uthayan Newspaper -
Suspected EPDP gunmen attack Jaffna newspaper office, 2 May 2006

Two employees were killed and three injured when armed Tamil youths suspected of belonging to the Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) ttacked the office of �Uthayan� a Tamil daily published in Jaffna. Five armed youths speaking fluent Tamil were involved in the attack which caused casualties among the non - editorial department staff though the assailants had come in search of two journalists working on the newspaper. The gunmen had also wrecked office equipment including computers before they left.

It was around 7. 30 in the evening on May 2nd when a young man wearing black trousers and a dark blue shirt arrived at the front office entrance of the �Uthayan� office located in a builiding , once owned by a prominent Aayurvedha doctor, on Kasthuriyar street in Jaffna town. He informed the unarmed security personnel from a private firm on duty at the entrance that he wanted to meet Mr. Kuganathan of the editorial dept.

Kuganathan called Kugan is a senior reporter at Uthayan. It is Kugan who travels frequently to Kilinochchi to attend press conferences held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) or interview tiger officials for his paper.Kugan had also gone to Geneva for the latest round of talks between the Government and the tigers.

Since the newspaper adopted certain procedures for security purposes the young man was told that he could not meet Kuganathan and that he could write down his particulars and reason for wanting to meet Kugan on paper which would be passed on.

Thereafter the youth wanted to meet Jegatheewswaran called Jegan another senior editorial staffer. Jegan was the usual night editor but was on leave on that day. Upon being told that Jegan was not working that night the young man got visibly angry and telephoned someone on his cellular phone. In an angry voice he told someone in Tamil � Inge karaichhal. Udane Vaangadappa� (There is a problem here. You all come immediately).

By this time some employees had recognized the young man as someone often seen at the EPDP office on Sridhar theatre or in EPDP vehicles. This recognition led to some concern and fear. At this point four men wearing dark clothes and in balaclavas masking their face rushed in. They had been waiting in a three - wheeler and motor cycle parked close by on the road.Two of the youths had guns believed to be T - 56 �s or AK 47�s. The other two had hand guns.

The gunmen now began demanding that they be taken to the editorial department to meet Kugan. The panic stricken �Uthayan� employees began to move away from the spot. The front office had the administration, advertising and circulation departments. The editorial dept was at the back on the upper section of a newly constructed extension.No outsiders are allowed in to the editorial.

Two of the gunmen ran inside the office searching for the journalists but were unable to locate the editorial dept. Meanwhile the others began firing at random within the office.Employees began running for safety as the firing in bursts began. The gunmen also fired at and also smashed the office equipment. The computers were wrecked. Some employees were hit as the gunmen targetted them.

The gunmen were unable to find Kugan or the other journalists on duty. There were four people in the editorial section but they were all unharmed. But two other employees were killed. One was 35 year old Sureshkumar Thevasagayam the circulation manager. The other killed was 28 year old Ranjithkumar the circulation superviser. Three persond were admitted to the Jaffna hospital were Thayaparan, Satheesh and Uthayakumar all from the circulation dept. Two others received minor non - gunshot wounds.

The assailants sped off in their vehicles towards the Manipay road side. There were two army sentry posts on either direction of Kasthuriar road but no security personnel attempted to stop the vehices. In fact no security person was sighted at the time of or immediately after the attack.

It is suspected that the armed youths belonged to the EPDP. In recent times the EPDP has enhanced its ranks by enlisting members of the Karuna faction, PLOTE mohan group members and EPRLF Razeek group remnants. While Social Services minister Douglas Devananda and others like Maheswari Velayutham, S. Thavarajah etc present the �democratic� face of the EPDP to the world at large other sinister elements working alongside the security forces are engaged in violent activity.

Many of the recent assassinations in the North - East are attributed to the EPDP .The people killed were Tamil civilians suspected of having links to the LTTE or being tiger sympathisers. It is also common knowledge in the north that EPDP members demand money from businessmen regarded as LTTE supporters. Those who pay up are spared while others who refuse are killed. EPDP controlled media then depict these killings as having been committed by the LTTE.

Hours before the attack on the Uthayan newspaper and the dawn of the World Press Freedom day that falls today, the media rights groups in Sri Lanka organized a vigil opposite the Fort railway station last evening to remember their slain colleagues, the majority of whose murders still remain unresolved crimes. A large number of foreign journalists who have arrived in Colombo to participate at the World Press Freedom Day events at the BMICH also joined the Sri Lankan journalists in the vigil.]

The reason for targetting the �Uthayan� newspaper is seen as politicallly motivated.The �Uthayan� is a Tamil daily published in Jaffna from 1986 onwards. Its sister paper �Sudaroli� is published from Colombo since 2000. Its managing director is.

The �Uthayan� and �Sudaroli� have been pushing an unambiguous pro - tiger line in their editorial columns. Their websites proudly displayed pictures of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakharan reading the papers avidly. The only instance of the tiger supremo posing for an �advertisement� boosting privately owned newspapers.This phenomenon has made many suspect that the LTTE had invested heavily in the journals.

The newspapers also maintain close contact with LTTE leaders like Anton Balasingham and Suppiah Paramu Thamilselvan.This enables the newspapers to publish many scoops and exclusives relating to LTTE affairs. This in turn has led to many news agencies and journalists quoting the �Uthayan/ Sudaroli� in their reports. The news and views expressed are often cited as reflecting LTTE thoughts accurately.

The anti - tiger groups are also as bad as the LTTE on issues like media freedom/ Sadly individual journalists have been attacked and killed. imalarajan, Nadesan, Sivaram, Sugirtharajan were all killed by anti - tiger elements. Sugirtharajan was the �Uthayan� reporter for Trincomalee.

It is against this backdrop that the attack on �Uthayan� office has to be viewed. The paper has often fallen afoul of the military in Jaffna too. A few years ago grenades were thrown at the office. Bombs were also thrown at the Colombo office killing a security guard.What seems to have transpired now is a convergence of interests between security personnel and Tamil paramilitaries in targetting the �Uthayan�. It does seem unbeliveble that such an attack could have been launched without security force support.

No one can deny them that right. Least of all by cowardly attacks like these where innocent employees were killed and injured. I condemn this attack on �Uthayan� vehemently and urge that those responsible be arrested.

Given past history this is not going to happen. Already the security forces have concocted a story where they claim to have fired at two persons on a motor cycle near the Sivan temple. The men had �escaped� after conveniently dropping a T - 56 for the security men to recover. When the UNP�s Karu Jayasuriya telephoned Mahinda Rajapakse to protest at the attack the President said that security personnel were fighting with the suspected assailants even as the telephone conversation was on. We can confidently assume that Douglas Devananda will be regaling the media soon with his �discovery� that the LTTE was responsible for this and was now trying to tarnish the image of the EPDP.

�Uthayan� editor Vithyatharan who was in Colombo at the time of the attack told media that a Tamil paramilitary group was responsible. Managing director Saravanabhavaan told President Rajapakse the same when Mahinda said �this has been done to discredit the government�. The �Tamilnet� says that an EPDP member was seen among the attackers.

What is tragic and ironic about the incident is that it happened on the eve of World press day. A three day Thamasha is organized in Colombo for the event. It was only in the evening that journalists demonstrated in Fort protesting attacks on the medisa. Journalists were being hosted for dinner by media minister Yapa when news of the Uthayan attack was received. Media movement convenor Sunanda Deshapriya expresed his protest at the incident and most Sri Lankan journalists walked out from dinner in solidarity with their beleaguered colleagues. They were expected to boucott the medi award function to be presided over by Rajapakse.

Media organizations in Lanka and abroad have issued condemnatory statements. This is most welcome. One only hopes that these media organizations will be critical of the LTTE when the tigers attack journalists too. The Sri Lankan media in general and Tamil media in particular are under grave threat. The �Uthayan� attack is symptomatic of this. The attack on �Uthayan� has to be condemned strongly. My deepest sympathies to the families of the innocent victims.

Gunmen open fire inside Tamil newspaper, killing two employees

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the murder of two employees in a shooting attack on the Tamil-language daily newspaper Uthayan in the northern city of Jaffna on 2 May, a day after it carried a cartoon of pro-government Tamil leader Douglas Devananda of the Eelam People�s Democratic Party (EPDP).

�We appeal to the authorities to carry out an investigation that quickly leads to the arrest of those responsible,� Reporters Without Borders. �Suspicion once again falls on the EPDP, which is known for using intimidation and violence. As this attack followed the publication of a cartoon of Devananda, we urge the police to question the EPDP�s leaders as part of their enquiries.�

The attack occurred as dozens of news media representatives were gathering in Colombo to mark World Press Freedom Day the following day. Five gunmen burst in Uthayan�s offices in Jaffna and demanded to see deputy editor R. Kuhanathan. Once learning he was not there, they opened fire on staff and equipment.

Marketing manager Suresh Kumar, 35, and another employee, Ranjith Kumar, 28, were shot dead. Two others sustained bullet wounds and several computers were destroyed. Uthayan has already been the target of militia attacks in the past.

Reporters Without Borders also condemned the failure to identify and punish those responsible for the murders of other journalists such as Mayilvaganam Nimalarajan, a contributor to the BBC and several Sri Lankan media, and Dharmeratnam Sivaram, the editor of the Tamilnet news website and a columnist for the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror newspaper.

A Reporters Without Borders representative who went to Sri Lanka for World Press Freedom Day spoke to many journalists in Jaffna who said they were constantly being threatened because of their work and lived in fear.

Innocent students charged in Uthayan killings, TamilNet, May 03, 2006

Amid propaganda by Sri Lanka Defense Ministry and the Sri Lanka Security forces that they have arrested four suspects in the killings at the Uthayan offices Tuesday, civil society members registered complaints with the the Jaffna Human Rights Commission (JHRC) offices that the four arrested are innocent students from the east, who were temporarily living in Jaffna to complete their Advanced Level education and examinations, sources in Jaffna said.

Students arrested are:

Kanapathipillai Vaheesan, 20, from Trincomalee, Velanai West, student at Trincomalee St Joseph's College,
Arul Krishanth, 20, from Trincomalee Ehamparam Road, student at St Joseph's College
Yoganathan Thusan Thajith, 20, from Vetharanyam Road, Batticaloa, student at St Michaels College
Mohanathas Anushakaran, 20, from Nadesapathi Road, Kottaikallar, Batticaloa, student at St Michaels College

The four students were living in a privately rented apartment in Kannathiddy junction in Jaffna and were preparing for their GCE(A/L) examinations attending tuition classes at the popular New Science School, a privately run educational institution in Jaffna, sources said.

Administrators and teachers at the New Science School and principals at theSt Joseph's College and St Michaels College have made representations to the JHRC and have attested to the innocence of the students.

The complainants have said that the students are bright students who relocated to Jaffna solely to further their prospects in performing in the examinations, confirmed P Surendran, an official at the JHRC. Mr Surendran added that theJHRC is taking all steps to provide legal representation to students.

Four students and two traders arrested by the Sri Lanka security forces Tuesday as suspects in the Uthayan killings and produced Wednesday at the Jaffna Courts were released on bail by Jaffna Additional Magistrate Ms. Sirinithi Nandasegaran after being subjected to an identification parade held in the presence of the magistrate, said sources from Jaffna.

42 persons participated in the identification parade, conducted in six groups. A security guard and two staffers from Uthayan offices did not identify any of the 42 as the gunmen, added the sources.

Ms. Srinithi Nandasegaran, presiding over the identification parade, then released the six arrested on personal bail each worth 10,000 rupees and fixed the next date of trial to May 12 2006.

Earlier it was believed that the Police had arrested only the four students. The two traders who were also arrested are Selvarajan Janarthan 27 and Rathinam Sabesan 22, employees in a food shop in the Jaffna town area, sources said.

The traders were playing cards after their food shop closed business, when they were arrested by Sri Lanka security forces immediately after the Uthayan killings, said the two youths in the courts.

The security force personnel assaulted the youths before handing them over to the Police, the traders and students told the magistrate.

The six released were bailed out by their relatives, legal sources said.

Sri Lanka Government controlled Daily News
Udayan attack: Six suspects nabbed - Senaka de Silva

Six suspects with T 56 rifles were arrested in a joint cordon and search operation by the Army and police in Jaffna in connection with the killing of two employees of the Udayan newspaper.

IGP Chandra Fernando said several police teams and the CID have been tasked to investigate the killing. CID Director Asoka Wijetilleke said those who were arrested will be produced before courts while statements have been recorded from another 25 persons.

The TNA alleges that the incident was engineered by the Government while the Government says it had been carried out to discredit the Government.

The President has called for a full report from the IGP. Meanwhile the six suspects were produced for an identification parade but note of them were identified and the Jaffna Magistrate fixed the next hearing for May 15.

Jaffna University students called for a hartal today in protest of the attack.

Sri Lanka Government controlled Daily News Editorial
Shameful attack on media

THE terror attack on the Udayan newspaper office in the North, which claimed two lives and injured two persons, comes as a bewildering shock to not only the media community of Sri Lanka but to all those who champion the Freedom of Expression.

The latter freedom is a cornerstone of democracy and it would be correct to say that what the terrorists have sought to cripple through their dark deed is democracy itself.

Accordingly, we roundly condemn the attack on the Udayan newspaper organisation and call on the law enforcers to bring the assailants to justice speedily.

We also welcome President Mahinda Rajapaksa's condemnation of the incident and call on him to ensure the speedy dispensation of justice in this connection.

There are some important dimensions to the terror attack which should not go unnoticed. One is that it occurred on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, which was celebrated in Sri Lanka with State patronage.

In fact the world community selected Sri Lanka as the venue for these celebrations this year, undoubtedly in recognition of the Lankan State's long-standing commitment to democracy in general and the Freedom of Expression in particular.

As is known, journalists from around the world converged on Sri Lanka for the event. Clearly, the aim of the assailants was to cause embarrassment to Sri Lanka on this memorable occasion. What the terrorists sought to convey was that Sri Lanka was no home to media freedom or diversity.

The Lankan State needs to respond swiftly to this situation. The assailants in the Udayan drama need to be apprehended quickly and brought to justice. No quarter should be shown to these terrorists who are likely to be of LTTE origin, in view of their opposition to the Lankan State.

Besides, maximum security precautions should be taken to ensure that journalists are not prevented from carrying out their duties. They should be provided secure environments to work in.

Ideally, media persons from the rest of the country should come together to denounce the attack on the Udayan office. It should be clearly shown that terror attacks on media persons anywhere would not be condoned by the Lankan journalistic community.

The local media community needs to rise above petty considerations and speak in unison on the need for the dispensation of justice in situations such as these.

Unfortunately, some sections of our media community have a comical tendency to cry "foul" over injustices which occur only outside our shores.

We need, of course, to be sensitive to such issues but it would be absurd in the extreme to turn a blind eye on the plight of our media persons and champion the causes of those operating outside our shores.

All right-thinking persons need to express their sense of moral outrage on the violence faced by journalists.

Clearly, more and more sections everywhere with sins to hide and evils to conceal are resenting the good work done by journalists with a progressive vision. The truth must be protected through a stout defence of journalists.




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