For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 23:57 GMT]
The main office of Uthayan Tamil daily in Jaffna came under grenade attack Tuesday night around 11:10 p.m., the administration of the paper told media in Colombo.
Tamil media circles added that the attack had come after verbal instructions by the top officials of Rajapaksa government not to publish stories related to civilian casualties in Vanni or reproduce the contents of interviews given by the LTTE officials to news agencies and media.
Uthayan and Valampuri newspapers have recently printed photos of children being killed in the Sri Lankan attacks inside ‘safety zone’ in Vanni.A police guard deployed to provide duty at Uthayan paper office was wounded in the explosion caused by the grenade lobbed in the lowest floor.
The two editors of the paper have been living in this floor without leaving the office premises since May 2006 when two of their employees were killed by alleged paramilitary gunmen.
This is the fifth time that the office has been subjected to attack in the recent years. One of the editorial staff of the paper told media that the latest attack was an attempt to stop the paper office from functioning. However, the grenade explosion didn’t stop the printing of the Wednesday’s issue of the paper.
The attack comes 27 days after prominent Tamil editor of the paper, N. Vithyatharan, was abducted and later claimed arrested by the Sri Lankan police in Colombo. “Mentioning the editor’s [Viiththyatharan's] name provoked a surprising response from Gotabaya Rajapksa, the Sri Lankan defence secretary and the brother of the SL president, said Amos Roberts, reporter for Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), who produced a documentary on media freedom in Sri Lanka for SBS Dateline program recently. Gotabaya’s response was: “He [Viththyatharan] is involved in recent air attacks. I am telling you: If you [are] trying to give a cover-up for that person, you have the blood in your hands.”