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IFJ welcomes partner organisations' press freedom mission to Jaffna

(IFJ/IFEX) - August 19, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes a mission to Jaffna by the Free Media Movement (FMM) and other partner organisations in Sri Lanka, between August 15 and 17.

A team of activists from the FMM, an IFJ affiliate, travelled to Jaffna in the northern province of Sri Lanka with several other media freedom organisations. The team made inquiries with Jaffna journalists and media workers about the situation they face since the end of the civil war in May 2009 and the lifting of restrictions on movement in and out of the province several months later.

On August 16, the team from Colombo joined local groups in a protest demonstration commencing at Jaffna's main bus stand.

The team made inquiries after the health of Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil daily Uthayan, who was brutally attacked while on his way home in Jaffna on July 29.

"The mission to Jaffna is an important step in restoring the confidence of journalists in the northern province, as indeed in all of Sri Lanka, after the serious assaults they suffered during the civil war and especially during its last phase," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

IFJ partners in Sri Lanka report that police claim to have made one arrest in the case of the attack on Kuhanathan. This person, with known criminal antecedents, was reportedly picked up by police from a hospital in Colombo.

The IFJ notes that most independent observers are deeply sceptical about the credibility of the case made out against the arrested individual and are concerned that his detention is merely an effort to deflect international criticism.

"The IFJ calls on local authorities in the north and the Sri Lankan national government to make the attack on Kuhanathan a priority area of attention and bring to account those responsible," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The FMM team will soon issue a report on its findings following the mission.

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