Alerts   |   Sri Lanka, UAE

UAE may deport refugee Tamil journalist to Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Tamils hold photos of family members who disappeared in the war between Sri Lankan government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels as they wait to hand over a petition at the U.N. office in Colombo on March 13. (Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte)

New York, April 10, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by news reports that a Tamil journalist in the United Arab Emirates may be deported to Sri Lanka this week despite her United Nations refugee status, and calls on authorities in the UAE to halt any such deportation measures.

Lohini Rathimohan (also spelled Lokini), a former television journalist, is one of 19 Tamil refugees facing deportation from the UAE, the BBC reported. UAE authorities have told the group they must leave the country by April 11 and return to Sri Lanka, according to U.S. government-funded Voice of America. The 19 refugees face "serious risk of torture and persecution upon return," according to Human Rights Watch.

Rathimohan covered Sri Lanka's civil war from areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers for the rebel-run National Television of Tamil Eelam (NTT) between 2006 and 2008, the news reports said.

"Sri Lanka remains a perilous place for Tamil journalists," said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "The UAE authorities must take this into consideration and immediately halt any plans to deport Lohini Rathimohan."

VOA reported that Rathimohan and the 18 other refugees are being kept together in a single room at Dubai's Jebel Ali Port and have minimal contact with the outside world. The journalist told VOA they have been given no indication of what lies ahead, saying, "We are afraid, very afraid." Media reports did not specify why Rathimohan and the others face deportation, and UAE authorities have not commented on the issue.

CPJ research shows that ethnic Tamil media in Sri Lanka face continued risks. CPJ last week documented an attack on the offices of Uthayan, a Tamil-language newspaper based in the island nation's Northern Province, and disruptions last month by the country's national broadcaster to BBC's Tamil service, which led the British broadcaster to suspend all radio service in Sri Lanka.

In 2009, Rathimohan's colleague Shoba was shown shot and killed in amateur video filmed by Sri Lankan soldiers and obtained by the U.K.'s Channel 4.

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