New York, June 1, 2004—Aiyathurai Nadesan, a veteran Tamil journalist, was shot and killed on Monday, May 31, by unidentified assailants in Batticaloa, a town on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka and 135 miles (216 kilometers) from the capital, Colombo, according to international news reports and local journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is investigating whether the murder was related to Nadesan's journalistic work.
Nadesan, who worked with the national Tamil-language daily Virakesari for 20 years, was on his way to work Monday morning when he was gunned down. Local police told The Associated Press that gunmen ambushed the journalist near a Hindu temple. The assailants escaped from the scene, and no group has claimed responsibility for the killing. The police in Batticaloa have launched an investigation into the murder, according to news reports.
Nadesan was an award-winning journalist who used the pen name Nellai G. Nadesan. He also reported for the International Broadcast Group, a Tamil-language radio station that broadcasts from London.
Violence erupted in Sri Lanka's eastern region in recent weeks after the main Tamil rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), launched a military offensive against a breakaway faction headed by a soldier known as Colonel Karuna. Local journalists said that Nadesan supported the LTTE. The LTTE has accused the Sri Lankan army and members of the breakaway faction of Nadesan's murder, according to the pro-LTTE Internet news site Tamil.net.
Nadesan had been harassed and threatened before his death because he had criticized the government and security forces, according to CPJ research. On June 17, 2001, a Sri Lankan army officer summoned Nadesan for an interrogation and threatened the journalist with arrest unless he ceased reporting about the army.
Local journalist groups condemned the murder and called for a hartal, or national strike, for tomorrow, June 2.
After a 20-year-long civil war, Sri Lanka's government reached a cease-fire agreement with the separatist LTTE in February 2002. Although the current peace agreement remains fragile, the two sides are scheduled to resume talks in July.
"We are outraged by the murder of Aiyathurai Nadesan and urge authorities to find and punish those responsible for this crime," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.