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FMM condemns attack on "Uthayan" journalist

(FMM/IFEX) - June 3, 2011 - The Free Media Movement (FMM) unequivocally condemns the recent attack on journalist S. Kavitharan by an unidentified group and views it as yet another serious blow to media freedom and the democratic right to free expression.

Kavitharan (31), a journalist with the Jaffna-based "Uthayan" newspaper and a father of one, was attacked by an unidentified group on Saturday, May 28, 2011, while he was on his way to the newspaper office. He was admitted to hospital for treatment and later discharged.

According to reports, Kavitharan had written several critical reports about the security situation in Jaffna and on the activities of certain pro-government paramilitary groups. He had previously been threatened by members of the group.

Over the years, "Uthayan" staff members, including the paper's editor, have been under constant attack. Several of its journalists have been killed and more have received death threats. The office has been attacked time and again and its editor has not left the premises in over four years. The distributors of the newspaper have also been under constant attack.

More recently, unidentified persons riding motorcycles issued a notice to the staff warning them against publishing reports and photographs not favourable to the government or politicians affiliated with the ruling United People's Freedom Party. Journalists were also warned against covering the funeral of LTTE leader V. Prabakharan's mother and the subsequent desecration of the grave.

Undeterred by the threats and attacks, "Uthayan" continues to be published, frequently reporting on events other mainstream newspapers overlook or censor, and as a consequence has become the lifeline for information of events happening in the North for the Jaffna populace.

The FMM believes that last Saturday's attack on Kavitharan is yet another attempt to silence the independent media in Jaffna. It also highlights the serious threat to media freedom in Sri Lanka and the right to express or report on dissenting views.

The FMM, while condemning the attack on Kavitharan, calls upon the government to conduct a free, impartial and speedy investigation into the incident and bring the culprits to book. Failure to do so would validate the belief that the government, rather than promoting media freedom, is endorsing its suppression by assisting and condoning attacks on journalists.

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