For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Sri Lankan affiliates in expressing outrage at a brutal attack on Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil daily Uthayan, in the northern city of Jaffna on July 29.
According to reports received from Sri Lanka, Kuhanathan, 59, was left for dead after being attacked with iron rods by two unidentified men while on his way home in the evening. He was discovered in a critical condition by passers-by and taken to Jaffna General Hospital where he is on life-support.
“The IFJ is shocked at the viciousness of the attack on Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, which extends a long sequence of targeted attacks on Uthayan,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
On May 28, S. Kavitharan, a reporter with Uthayan, was attacked in Jaffna city in a similar manner while on his way to work. No investigations have since been conducted.
In January 2006, S.S. Sukirtharajan, a reporter for the newspaper in Trincomalee in the eastern province, was shot dead in evident retribution for his role in exposing the execution-style killing of five Tamil students by Sri Lankan armed forces.
In May the same year, an armed attack on the Uthayan premises in Jaffna may have been intended to target Kuhanathan. Two other employees were killed.
Later that month, a delivery van belonging to the newspaper was attacked and its driver killed.
In April 2007, S. Rajeevarman, an Uthayan reporter in Jaffna, was shot dead after publishing news reports on disappearances in the northern province.
“The attack on Kuhanathan is part of a pattern of seeking to suppress a newspaper which has sought consistently to provide a voice for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, and is an important part of the life of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka’s north,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.
In recent elections to local town councils in the northern province, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which strongly opposes the ruling coalition of President Mahinda Rajapakse, won 18 of 23 councils.
“Uthayan’s editorial policy in backing the TNA appears to be the direct provocation for this near lethal attack on its senior news editor,” IFJ Asia-Pacific said.