Chief Editor of newspapers Sudar Oli and Uthayan, N. Vidyatharan, earlier reported as ‘abducted’ in Mount Lavinia by Colombo media outlets was actually being taken in for questioning according to Police clarifications.
The Daily Mirror initially reported he was abducted by an ‘armed group’.
The ‘arrest’ has taken place around 10:00 a.m. at Mahinda Florist in Galkissa on Galle Road while Mr. Vithyatharan was attending a funeral of a close relative.
The armed group pulled him from a crowd of mourners standing near the coffin, and drove away, E. Saravanapavan, managing director of the newspaper later told the Associated Press.
“We were trying to push him inside and they were trying to drag him the other way,” he said.
Lakshman Hulugalle, a defense spokesman, said Vithyatharan was being held in connection with the rebels’ kamikaze attack on Colombo last Friday, but that it was too soon to know if he would be charged. He defended the conditions of the arrest
January, 2009: UK Deputy High Commissioner Mark Gooding Meeting with M.V. Kaanamylnathan, an Editor of Uthayan (A popular Tamil newspaper) newspaper, Jaffna.
Mr. Vithyatharan is the Editor-in-Chief of Colombo based Sudaroli and editor of Uthayan, published in Jaffna. Both the papers have faced threats and attacks in recent years.
In the continuing attacks on media in Sri Lanka, last month, a prominent newspaper editor critical of the war was killed by gunmen, a private TV station was attacked by assailants armed with guns and grenades and another editor was stabbed.
Opposition officials and media activists have accused the government of a role in the attacks, an allegation the government denies.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), issued the following statement immediately after the incident was reported on Thursday, Feb 26th:
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on the Sri Lankan Government to immediately activate all efforts to locate N. Vidyatharan, editor of the Tamil daily Sudar Oli, who was reportedly abducted from Mahinda Funeral Parlour in Mount Lavinia, Colombo, this morning.
According to local reports, Vidyatharan was attending a funeral when he was forced into a van by people wearing police uniforms.
Police have reportedly confirmed they believe Vidyatharan was abducted but denied police involvement in the attack.
Sudar Oli managing editor Mr Saravanpavan received a call from Vidyatharan about two hours after the abduction to acknowledge he was alive. Vidyatharan did not provide further details.
The IFJ fears Vidyatharan’s safety is still in grave danger.
On February 16, Vidyatharan was questioned for more than eight hours by the CCB, a government intelligence unit, in relation to news reports published in Sudar Oli about civilian casualties in the conflict between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Vanni.
Sudar Oli is published by the Uthayan newspaper group which also publishes the Uthayan Tamil daily in the troubled Jaffna region.
Nine staff from the Uthayan newspaper group have reportedly been killed in the past 3 years, a local source said.
“All available resources must be employed immediately to search and locate Vidyatharan,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“There is no doubt that there is a major crisis of safety for all journalists working in Sri Lanka and any attack or threat must be treated as serious and potentially life-threatening.”
The IFJ encourages all affiliates and members of the international press freedom and human rights communities to take immediate action by making urgent inquires about Vidyatharan’s whereabouts and safety to:
President of Sri Lanka
Hon Mahinda Rajapaksa
Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights
Hon Mahinda Samarasinghe
Tel: +94-11-2681979, +94-11-269-5013
Fax: +94-11-2681978. +94-11-268-1980
Inspector General of Police
Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org