For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The Free Media Movement (FMM) unequivocally condemns the recent attack on journalist S. Kavitharan by an unidentified group and views it as yet another serious blow to media freedom and the democratic right to free expression.
Kavitharan (31), a journalist with the Jaffna based Uthayan newspaper and a father of one, was attacked by an unidentified group on Saturday, May 28, 2011, while he was on his way to the newspaper office. He was admitted to hospital for treatment and later discharged.
According to reports, Kavitharan had written several critical reports about the security situation in Jaffna and on the activities of certain pro-government para-military groups. He had previously been threatened by the members of the group.
Over the years, the Uthayan staff members, including its editor, have been under constant attack. Several of its journalists have been killed and more have been threatened with death. The office has been attacked time and again and its editor has not left the premises in over four years. The distributors of the newspaper have also been under constant attack.
More recently, unidentified persons riding motorcycles issued notice to the staff warning them against publishing reports and photographs not favourable to the government or politicians affiliated with the ruling United People’s Freedom Party. Journalists were also warned against covering the funeral of V. Prabakharan’s mother and the subsequent desecration of the grave.
Undeterred by the threats and attacks, the Uthayan newspaper continued to be published, frequently reporting on events other mainstream newspapers overlook or censor and as a consequence has become the lifeline for information of events happening in the North for the Jaffna populace.
Last Saturday’s attack on Kavitharan, the FMM believes is yet another attempt to silence the independent media in Jaffna. It also highlights the serious threat to media freedom in Sri Lanka and the right to express or report on dissenting views.
The FMM, while condemning the attack on Kavitharan, calls upon the government to conduct a free, impartial and speedy investigation into the incident and bring the culprits to book. Failure to do so would validate the belief that the government rather than promoting media freedom is endorsing its suppression by assisting and condoning attacks on journalists.
Sunil Jayasekara Hana Ibrahim