Press Statement

Sri Lanka military blocks access to Tamil newspaper office

21 May, 2014

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliatesin Sri Lanka, the Free Media Movement (FMM) condemn the Sri Lankan military’s action of blocking the roads to deny access to the office of Uthayan, a Tamil-language daily, in Jaffna on Monday, May 19.

According to reports, military forces restricted the access to the two entrances to the Uthayan office from the Navalar Road and the Kasthuriyar Road. The soldiersquestioned all those who entered via the road and those visiting the newspaper office were turned away. The blocking of the offices also forced the cancellation ofa blood donation drive organised by the newspaper.

When the newspaper queried the military about the blocking, they were informed that it was being carried out under ‘high command’ and no further explanation was given.

The managing director of Uthayan, E Sarawanabavan, is a member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka representing the Tamil National Alliance, and was quoted as saying that the blocking disrupted the daily functioning of the newspaper.

Similar restrictions of access were reported at the YalThinakkural office in Jaffna. The military said that increased securitywas required in Jaffna to stop any ‘unwanted situation’ on the day marking the fifth anniversary for the declaration of defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelum (LTTE).

Uthayan, which was the 2013 recipient of Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize, had previously had its printing facility attacked in April 2013.

The IFJ and Sri Lankan affiliate, the Free Media Movement (FMM)have both spoken out against the military actionas part of the ongoing harassmentof Tamil-language newspapers and have urged the Sri Lankan government respect its citizens’ human rights and their constitutional right to freedom of expression and opinion.

The IFJ said: “Such harassment of Tamil newspapers is unacceptable and against the basic notion of Sri Lanka’s democracy. We urge the government to respect its citizens’ human rights and be sensitive in particular toward those representing minorities.”

“If the government is sincere in their pursuit for peace and reconciliation in post-war Sri Lanka they must ensure that minorities are given a voice in the media – and that includes significant points or dates of public discussion or discourse.”

Written By

IFJ Asia-Pacific IFJ Asia-Pacific

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