New York, April 15, 2013--Sri Lankan authorities must immediately investigate an attack on the offices of a Tamil-language newspaper and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The offices of Uthayan have been attacked twice in two weeks.
Three unidentified armed men entered the offices of the daily Uthayan in the provincial capital of Jaffna early Saturday, and torched the printing press, news reports said. The attackers also damaged an electricity panel and set fire to copies of the newspaper awaiting delivery, the reports said. Newspaper employees at the office fled the scene in panic, according to news reports.
No injuries were reported, but news accounts reported that the paper's main printing press was destroyed in the attack. Premananth Thevanayagam, an editor for the paper, told the local organization Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka that the attack would hamper production.
Uthayan is aligned with the Tamil National Alliance, an umbrella organization of parties that represents Tamils in the Northern Province. The paper's owner, E. Saravanapavan, who is a member of the Tamil National Alliance and a member of parliament, told the news media that he believed the newspaper could have been attacked by either the military or groups linked to the military. He said the newspaper had recently published articles about the increasing takeover of business and industry in the north of Sri Lanka by the armed forces. He also said that with provincial elections looming in September, the government sees the newspaper as opposing its interests, reports said.
The military denied the accusations in a statement. A police investigation that was concluded within five hours said the attack was an "inside job" in an effort to tarnish the image of the government, news reports said. Saravanapavan rejected the government's accusations, reports said.
This most recent attack follows an earlier attack on April 3 in which several employees were injured and equipment damaged at the newspaper's Kilinochchi office in the Northern Province.
"These attacks on the offices of Uthayan have been going on for years and typify the threats faced by the Tamil press in Sri Lanka," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. "They also highlight the abysmal record of impunity that attackers enjoy in Sri Lanka. Under the ruling Rajapaksa regime, the record of abuse aimed at Sri Lanka's media is unmatched in the country's history."