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Critical defence analyst, newspaper editor threatened, abducted, beaten, released

(FMM/IFEX) - The following is an FMM press release:

Senior journalist and Deputy Editor abducted and severely beaten

23 May 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka - The Free Media Movement (FMM) expresses shock and outrage that Keith Noyahr, deputy editor and defense analyst of the English weekly "The Nation" was abducted in the late evening on 22 May 2008. He returned home early on 23 May, after enduring severe physical harm.

Keith left his office around 10:30 p.m. (local time) the night of 22 May but never reached home. His vehicle was found in front of his house, with its lights and engine running. It was apparent that he had been abducted when he turned his car towards the gate and got out to open the gate.

There is no reason for this latest attack against a journalist other than his independent writing and analysis of the war in the north, if that is reason at all. His reporting was critical of high-ranking military officers and the government's approach to and conduct of the war. According to family sources, threats directed against him had forced him to take precautionary measures.

This is not just a violation of freedom of expression and another significant blow to media freedom. It proves, if more proof was needed, that Sri Lanka is very far from being a country that protects fundamental rights and is governed by the rule of law.

"The Nation" newspaper group and press freedom organizations joined together in a strong campaign for Noyahr's safe release within hours of his abduction and were active the entire night until his return home.

The FMM unequivocally condemns this heinous act and demands an immediate inquiry by the government. The only way the government can clear its name with regard to this barbaric act is to bring the culprits to justice, promptly and through an open investigation. Until such time as the culprits are brought to book, the FMM holds the government responsible for Noyahr's abduction and assault, noting that it has done little or nothing to stop the violation of media freedom and attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka.

The FMM takes this opportunity to thank all the persons and institutions that joined us in facilitating Keith Noyahr's return home.

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