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Home  >Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > Indictment against Sri Lanka > Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists  Abduction and Torture of Journalist Keith Noyahr

Censorship, Disinformation & Murder of Journalists

Abduction and Torture of Journalist Keith Noyahr

Barbaric Attack on Journalist - Free Media Movement, 24 May 2008

Management and Staff of Rivira Media Corporation stood shell shocked and outraged - Krishantha Prasad Cooray, Chief Executive Officer, Rivira Media Corporation, 24 May 2008

Barbaric Attack on Journalist - Free Media Movement, 24 May 2008

Noyahr - Abduction and TortureIt looks as if the government, while pining and blaming all and sundry about the loss of the country's place in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), it is permitting the production of evidence that lends substance to the allegation that there is a serious problem about human rights violations in the country.

Adding to the list of mysterious abductions and disappearances, the Nation newspaper's Associate Editor Keith Noyahr had been abducted in the dead of night as he was returning home after work late at night and released nearly seven hours later after being brutally assaulted by unidentified persons.

What earthly crime had Keith Noyahr committed to deserve this type of nasty treatment? We as fellow journalists with close associations with him are certain that he had not committed any major or minor offence to earn the wrath of any individual or group.

Once the possibility of private anger or vengeance has been ruled out, the accusing finger remains to be raised against those who had been hurt or harmed by what he had written on the conduct of the war in the course of performing his duty by the country as a responsible journalist covering the subject of defence. There could well have been inaccuracies in his writings. If that were so, the aggrieved persons had ample legal and administrative avenues of dealing with them decently and democratically. The barbarous and uncivilized method resorted to instead, in this instance, exposes the lowest depths to which the perpetrators and collaborators had descended.

This incident has not only lent credence to the prevailing practice of silencing criticism, but infuriated all those who - here and abroad - are committed to protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression, on the full articulation of which depend the protection and preservation of most other fundamental rights guaranteed to citizens. This cherished right, as is well known, is enshrined in the UN Charter of Human Rights under Article 19. The present ugly incident that adds to similar instances of abductions and killings, intimidation and harassment of those engaged in the vital task of providing information, confirms the accusation that the country is deviating from democratic practices and choosing the path of authoritarianism.

What indeed have the decent ministers handling the subject of media and information to say on this matter? They will most probably condemn the attack and assure that the incident will be fully and quickly investigated. They will also attempt to draw a red herring to save those at whom the accusing finger of suspicion is pointed. That would be the immediate response and their concerns and interests end there leaving the incident to join the country's discredited list of mysterious crimes.

It is the bounden duty of all those parties and groups, particularly the religious groups, supporting the government and who desire that decency and democracy should prevail, to make their voices heard and exert pressure on the powers that be to prevent the recurrence of attempts to suppress dissent and criticism.

Dastardly acts of this nature will also have the effect of driving even those who are sympathetic and supportive of the government's efforts to deal with terrorism and solve the national problem, to the camps of those opposing government policies and actions. Their alienation would serve to strengthen the forces that conspire to save the LTTE from the predicament it faces today.

The government has to extricate itself from the suspicion mounting against it by ensuring that the incident is quickly investigated and perpetrators brought to book. It is only by such honest action that the government would be able to restore the country's lost reputation as a country deeply committed to preserving the democratic rights of the people.

The media organizations have now to decide on more effective ways than issuing statements, staging protests and condemning those suspected to be responsible for these contemptible acts, to bring about an end to the regular attacks on media institutions and personnel. Forging unity among journalists is an essential prerequisite for launching a forceful campaign to compel the authorities to refrain from resorting to illegal and undemocratic methods to blunt dissent.

It is unfortunate that the state media institutions and personnel employed in them adopt a lukewarm attitude to these threats to the institutions and their profession. It is only irredeemable sycophants who will stay undisturbed by these criminal invasions on their profession.

Management and Staff of Rivira Media Corporation stood shell shocked and outraged - Krishantha Prasad Cooray, Chief Executive Officer, Rivira Media Corporation, 24 May 2008

The Management and Staff of Rivira Media Corporation stood shell shocked and outraged on Thursday night (May 22) upon receiving the news that Associate Editor of The Nation and one of the paper�s most senior journalists, Keith Noyahr, had been abducted outside his residence at around 10 p.m.

Keith, who was returning home after dinner, was abducted at the entrance of his house, presumably when he got off his vehicle to open his garage gate. His wife was to find his car, minutes later, still parked outside, its engine running and headlights still on.

His abduction followed a series of threats issued against him, and, according to Keith�s close associates, seemingly because of his regular contributions to The Nation�s weekly defence column published under the nom-de-plume Senpathi.

After what seemed liked an endless vigil for Keith�s family and friends, he was �released,� but not before being brutally assaulted by his abductors.

I am joined by Keith�s colleagues both at The Nation and Rivira and the wider media community, who have recognised both his valour and unprejudiced journalism, and therefore view this attack against him as a despicable act aimed at silencing a pen committed to the truth above all else.

We live in a nation where terrorism is a word much bandied about. Terrorism is words, ideologies and individuals; terrorism is also a convenient label, a weapon to be used against political detractor and dissident. But terrorism by definition rises beyond individual and organisation.

The perpetrator notwithstanding, terrorism is principally an act. This is why, we at Rivira Media Corporation, stand convinced that what happened to Keith in those hours between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Thursday night was terrorism, in its rawest, most savage form.

Keith is a journalist by profession, but he is first and foremost a family man. On Thursday night, his abductors rendered his two small children hysterical with grief and fear that they might never see their father again, presumably because they disagreed with what he wrote.

Keith remains at the Colombo National Hospital, receiving treatment for injuries sustained, the extent of which is not yet fully known. Journalistic principle aside, it was a heavy price to pay for writing an article.

Despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, we, at Rivira Media Corporation, remain hopeful that the authorities will seek to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act of terrorism to book. We recognise that while a strong campaign to bring Keith�s abductors to justice is being waged, there are thousands in the very same plight, without voice and without hope.

In appealing for justice for Keith, we echo the same call for justice to be served to the hundreds and thousands of abductees all over Sri Lanka. We pray that this culture of impunity will be arrested forthwith � already too many have paid the highest price to satisfy the whims of a few.

We take this opportunity to thank our colleagues in the media for their stoic and unending support in this time of crisis. Keith, had he been in better condition, would have been the first to recognise this support and offer his thanks.

It was Keith, more than any of us, who was the defender of media rights; he was at every protest against the obstruction of media freedom, he would personally insist on articles being published about journalists killed for doing their job. He embodied the best of journalism in this country.

One by one, journalists in this country have been silenced. When they have not been killed to stop them reporting, they have been intimidated into reluctance to pick up a pen again. We call on our colleagues in the media therefore, to stand up against this injustice. We urge you to join with us in a campaign to bring about true democracy in this country.

May our calls be stronger than ever before; may our struggle prove a force to be reckoned with. It is a moment for collective solidarity, a time to shun rivalry, a time to stand up for each other against the forces that seek to silence and destroy us. Let us step up to the challenge, for Keith Noyahr, for the countless other scribes and perhaps for ourselves.




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