Office of outspoken Tamil newspaper Uthayan attacked in Sri Lanka

view gallery VIEW GALLERY


An outspoken Tamil newspaper in northern Sri Lanka whose premises have been repeatedly targeted, and its employees killed, was attacked by armed men who stormed into the building and set the printing presses ablaze. It is the second attack on the newspaper in two weeks.

Reports said a gang of three men armed with guns entered the premises of Uthayan in Jaffna before dawn on Saturday and scared away the staff. The men then fired their weapons and set fire to a stack of newspapers awaiting delivery and the printing presses.

“This morning at around 4.45am three people with arms – two were carrying pistols and one was carrying what looked like an AK-47 – came into the building and scared away the security staff,” said the paper’s owner, Eswarapatham Saravanapavan, speaking from Jaffna.

He added: “They shot at the panel board and put kerosene all over the place. Four printing wheels got burned. The main part of the machine was destroyed. They also threw press oil everywhere.”

The assault on the headquarters of Uthayan, or the Rising Sun, followed an attack earlier this month on its distribution office in Kilinochchi. In that attack four members of staff were hurt, one of them seriously.

Uthayan has a record as an outspoken Tamil newspaper that supports political autonomy for Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. It has been repeatedly attacked, most seriously in 2006 when gunmen entered the Jaffna building and opened fire, killing two members of staff. A total of six employees have been killed in the past decade.

When The Independent visited the Jaffna offices of Uthayan in November 2011, its editor, MV Kaanamylnathan, revealed that he had not left his office since 2006 as a result of security concerns. The only exception he made was a visit to his heart specialist once every three months. “For that, I have to make to make special arrangements,” he said.

Instead, he and his wife lived in a small room set up alongside the newsroom. In the room where the news meetings were held by editors, staff had retained the bullet-scarred conference table as a reminder of the 2006 attack

Although the newspaper is considered Tamil nationalist, over the years it has faced threats from the Sri Lankan military, Tamil militants and unidentified thugs allegedly linked to pro-government paramilitaries. Between 1990 and 1995, the city of Jaffna, located at the tip of Sri Lanka, was controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, whose decades-long insurgency for a Tamil homeland was crushed in 2009.

“We have a relationship with all parties, even the military. We carry all the stories and all the statements,” said Mr Kaanamylnathan.

The paper’s owner, Mr Saravanapavan, who is a member of the Tamil National Alliance and a member of parliament, said he believed the paper could have been attacked by either the military or groups linked to the military. He said the paper had recently been publishing articles about the increasing take-over of business and industry in the north of Sri Lanka by the armed forces.

He added: “The Provincial Council elections are happening in September. The government is aware that the existence of the newspaper is adverse to its interests and it has been doing what it can to halt the newspaper.”

A spokesman for the military, Brig Ruwan Wanigasooriya said the allegation by Mr Saravanapavan was untrue. He said the army will cooperate with the police in an investigation.

“There is widespread speculation regarding the attack....Some speculate that the military was involved in either carrying out or supporting this attack.  We reject such allegations,” he said in a statement.

He added: “It is reiterated that the Sri Lankan military forces are duty bound to protect the constitutional rights. Freedom of expression is one of the guaranteed rights. The military has no requirement to engage in acts against freedom of expression.” 

Despite the end of the civil war in 2009, attacks on media workers have not halted. Earlier this year, investigative journalist Faraz Shauketaly, who holds both British and Sri Lankan citizenship, was shot by three men who broke into his house in a Colombo suburb.

The 54-year-old investigative reporter works for the Sunday Leaders newspaper, which also has a reputation for being critical of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He required surgery to remove a bullet. Amnesty International has estimated that at least 14 journalist have been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006. Many more have fled and fear a climate of impunity.

Mr Saravanapavan said he arranged for an alternative printing press and vowed that Sunday’s edition of Uthayan would appear. He said: “I will be going ahead.”

Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator for the Campaign to Protect Journalists, said: "These attacks on Uthayan mirror the pressure that is still aimed at much of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. They take place with absolute impunity. Under the Rajapaksa government the record of abuse aimed at Sri Lanka's media is unmatched in the country's history. "

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?