New York, April 30, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the slaying on Sunday of Selvarajah Rajeewarnam, a reporter for the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, and calls on the government to investigate and quickly bring his assailants to justice. Rajeewarnam was aboard a bicycle on assignment in Jaffna when he was shot by unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen about 600 feet (180 meters) from a military checkpoint, according to Uthayan staffers.
CPJ is investigating whether Rajeewarnam was shot because of his work. Rajeewarnam, a Tamil, had worked for another Tamil paper, Namadu Eelanadu, which closed soon after its managing editor, Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, was killed outside of his home in Jaffna in August 2006. Rajeewarnam had been working at Uthayan for about four months.
“We call on the Sri Lankan government to assert its authority and bring to justice these killers,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Sri Lanka’s civil conflict cannot be used as an excuse to allow such deaths to occur with impunity.”
CPJ’s database of killed journalists shows that six Sri Lankan journalists, all Tamils, have been killed in direct relation to their work since May 2004. Five were murdered and one was killed in crossfire; no one has been brought to justice in the killings.
Uthayan has often been under attack. In September 2006, CPJ called on Sri Lankan authorities to fulfill their duty to protect Uthayan’s staff after receiving a plea from E. Saravanapavan, the paper’s managing director, to publicize the numerous threats against his staff.