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Political activists attempt to storm newspaper office

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 17 October 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns Attacks on The Hindu in Tamil Nadu

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is disturbed to learn of an attempt by political activists to storm the office of the The Hindu newspaper in the city of Coimbatore in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and a subsequent event involving copies of the newspaper being burnt in the nearby city of Erode.

The IFJ joins the Indian Journalists' Union and other Indian affiliates in condemning this fresh outbreak of political vigilantism and the attempt to intimidate a widely read and well-respected newspaper.

According to reports from Tamil Nadu, a group of lawyers claiming allegiance to a little known political group, the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK), marched on the newspaper's offices in Coimbatore on October 14, shouting slogans and demanding that the newspaper change its editorial stance on the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka.

The lawyers shouted slogans in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a separatist group that has been fighting the Sri Lankan Government for over a quarter century, and was declared an unlawful organisation by the Indian Government in 1991.

Copies of the newspaper, which had that day carried a critical editorial-page commentary on the LTTE and its sympathisers, were burnt before law enforcement authorities intervened to disperse the protesters.

Shortly afterwards, a group of law students sought to enter the premises of The Hindu in Coimbatore. Two among this group managed to evade the police cordon but failed to scale the main gate of the office compound. A stone was hurled by one of them, which fortunately, did not cause any injury or damage.

In the subsequent event at Erode, distribution agents for The Hindu were attacked by slogan-shouting activists of the PDK and an affiliated political group during the early hours of October 16. Over 3000 copies of The Hindu and its associated business daily were burnt by the six-strong group of attackers, who shouted slogans and scattered handbills in support of the LTTE at the site of the incident.

"The IFJ notes that the authorities in Tamil Nadu have arrested some of the individuals behind these attacks," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"We now call upon political leaders in the state to publicly repudiate such acts of violence and intolerance, so that an appropriate environment is created for a constructive public debate on matters of vital importance."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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