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