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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Uthayan Newspaper in Jaffna: Dissent Under Siege

◾Govt won the war, but not the hearts of Tamil community – Saravanapavan
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” – Voltaire
Since its inception in 1985, the Uthayan newspaper in Jaffna has come under attack on many occasions, which had shown an increase during and after the war in the North.

Opposition political parties, media organizations and civil society movements have condemned the attack on the Uthayan newspaper as another incident where the country’s freedom of expression and media freedom has come under attack. In fact, the attack is viewed as part of a siege on dissenting voices in the country.

Last week’s attack on the Uthayan newspaper office in Kilinochchi is seen with disgust since it is one of the few sources of information to the people in the North.

These continuous assaults on the media industry have also caused harm to the country’s international image.
 Undeterred by the attack, the publisher of the Uthayan newspaper and TNA parliamentarian E. Saravanapavan said that the newspaper would not be silenced by these attacks.

“The government is not handling the situation properly. It has to be noted that most of the attacks related to the Uthayan newspaper had taken place near military camps,” he said.

Saravanapavan noted that the authorities have not been able to take proper action against the persons who had been involved in carrying out continuous attacks on the Uthayan newspaper.

“When Uthayan’s Kuhanathan’s attacker was caught, he revealed of a plot to assassinate him. However, a few weeks later there was no outcome of the investigation. In the same manner, when armed men stormed the Uthayan office in May 2006, one hour later the President telephoned and said the suspects were arrested, but there was no action taken,” he explained.

According to Saravanapavan, certain elements engaged in attacking the media are continuing due to protection received by them.

 He noted that governing party allies like the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and the All Ceylon Muslim Congress (ACMC) are unhappy with the reporting done by the Uthayan newspaper.

“The government feels that it would not be able to survive if the Uthayan continued and that is why we are being targeted,” Saravanapavan said.

He added that the government has won the war and must now work at winning the hearts of the Tamil people, which could not be achieved by allowing such attacks on the media.

Last Wednesday, six masked men had attacked a newspaper delivery van and the Uthayan office in Kilinochchi situated at the main road. The manager of the office and several other persons in the office were assaulted with cricket wickets. Five people were injured in the attack and three persons were hospitalized and another in critical condition.

Condemning the attack on Uthayan, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) alleged that these attacks on the democratic expression of Tamils in the North and East are clearly carried out with the active support, sanction and collusion of the Sri Lankan government.

“They are a vain and counterproductive attempt to suppress and persecute Tamils for their political aspirations,” the TNA noted.

 The TNA called on all right-thinking citizens of this country and members of the international community to prevail on the Sri Lankan government to immediately cease the violence directed against the Tamil People.

The party also condemned the numerous episodes of mob violence against the Muslim community and Christian places of worship, and demand that action be taken against the purveyors of violent hate.

“We reiterate that to prevent a non-recurrence of the past, Sri Lanka must embark on a meaningful process of reconciliation based on ensuring truth, justice and reparations for victims of violent crimes committed by all parties,” the TNA warned.

 Meanwhile, acting Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said the government condemned the latest attack on the Uthayan newspaper.

He observed that the police have been instructed to carry out an inquiry to arrest the suspects.
“The government has no involvement in the attack,” he said, adding that these attacks on newspapers were unwarranted and were aimed at bringing disrepute to the government.

When inquired why the police had failed to take proper action during the previous attacks on the newspaper, Yapa said that the police have been asked to track down the suspects and observed, “We believe that the police will crack down on them.”

However, as at Friday, the police have not taken into custody any suspect involved in Wednesday’s attack on the newspaper office.

Some of the incidents faced by Uthayan

23.08.2005: Hand grenade thrown at the Colombo Uthayan advertisement office at Wellawatta.

02.05.2006: Two employees shot inside the office, 2 maimed and several others injured. Electronic, electrical and office equipment damaged.

11.08.2006: Divisional reporters threatened not to give news stories.

15.08.2006: Newspaper driver shot dead while distributing newspapers to agents.

18.08.2006: Main stores and stock of newsprint fully burnt.

10.09.2006: Several gunmen enter the Uthayan premises (during the curfew hours) jumping over the wall and walk up straight to our Editorial floor.

29.04.2007: S. Rajvaraman, a Staff Reporter shot dead while on his way for duty to the office in the morning.
 06.01.2008: An anonymous telephone caller from Kayts orders in rough voice that publication of the Uthayan be stopped immediately (i.e. 7th January).

26.02.2009: Editor Uthayan/Sudar Oli was kidnapped/arrested while he was at a funeral house by an armed Identified white van gang and was detained in Police custody and was release after 02 months.

24.03.2009: At 11.10 p.m. an unidentified crowd hurls a grenade at the apartment of the Chief Editor within Uthayan premises. He narrowly escapes the attack without injuries, but the Police Guard who was on duty is badly injured.

04.02.2010: Uthayan, Sudar Oli Editor Mr. N. Vithyatharan threatened by Kishore Sivanathan M.P.

28.05.2011: Uthayan Reporter Mr. S. Kavitharan, assaulted at about 6.30am on his way to office by four unidentified persons. This occurred in close proximity to the Jaffna Hindu College Playgrounds.

27.12.2012: Uthayan Editor Mr. T. Premanath assaulted by an army officer, when a group of army persons entered the Jaffna University premises to prevent students from lighting lamps in memory of the deceased Tamil people in the war. He is hospitalized for 2 days.

10.01.2013: Uthayan newspaper delivery employee N. Pratheepan (30 years old), is waylaid and attacked by some unidentified mask wearing men. He manages to escape. Having failed the assailants set fire to the newspaper bundles he was carrying and to his motorcycle.

– Sunday Leader


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