“Safeguard security of Jaffna Journalists”

The Editor of Jaffna Daily Uthayan has written to the The President and Secretary of The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka, seeking their attention to bring the plight of Uthayan and other Jaffna Journalists to light.

N.V. Kanamailnathan, Editor of Uthayan has called for urgent action by the Guild, “to safeguard the human security Jaffna Journalists”, in his letter.

The letter is calling for a “shared commitment to the inviolable values of democracy and the freedom of the media”.

Text of the letter as follows:

The President and Secretary,
The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka
Colombo

Plight of Udayan Journalists

Publishing our daily newspaper Udayan in Jaffna is an increasingly Herculean and dangerous task with armed gunmen who continuously threaten our work and our lives.

Our journalists & employees working in the night face this risk each second of every day, with absolutely no respite. Threats in the last four months have increased. Incidents that have occurred during this period have made our journalists and essential staff lead a stressful life of fear and insecurity.

This letter is to urge you to kindly bring the traumatic conditions that we are hostages of to the attention of all our colleagues of the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka.

We note the following events in particular as those that underline the context and challenges we are faced with:

On 10th September 2006 a group of armed men with pistols in civilian garb jumped over the wall and entered in to Udayan compound at about 11.25 pm – when the night curfew was in force in Jaffna Peninsula – and walked straight to a section of the office leading to the editorial offices with the express purpose of targeting the two senior journalists (Kuganathan and N.Kanagalimgam) and my self who were at our desks at that time. They came with intent to kill and were also armed with an intimate knowledge of the office layout. The security guard on duty informed the police who were on duty of few yards away from the editorial department. They then rushed to the spot and apprehended the armed gunmen, but had to subsequently release them as they were allegedly from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Our Managing Director brought this to the notice of the DIG of Jaffna and complaints were also made to the Jaffna police.

Earlier, on 7th September 2006 at about 7.45 pm – again during curfew hours – armed men with pistols forcibly entered our premises by commandeering the security guards. They walked straight up to the door leading to the editorial where two Senior Journalists (Kuganathan and N. Kanagalimgam) were at their desks. Their motive was to intimidate the journalists and force them to carry a statement. They threatened the journalists with grave consequences if the statement was not published in the Udayan in the next couple of days.

On 2nd May 2006, an armed group of six walked in and gunned down two of our employees, including our Marketing Manger. Another four were injured.

These are impossible circumstances to work under as a journalist. Our complaints to the police and other authorities have not proved fruitful. I call upon all my fellow journalists to act immediately and take necessary action to safeguard us from a further erosion of human security for journalists associated with Udayan, and all Tamil journalists in the Jaffna Peninsula. Our lives are in grave danger and today, the barrels of guns commandeer media freedom in the Jaffna Peninsula.

We are being throttled and systematically targeted – we need your help, now more than ever, to secure our livelihoods, our profession and a shared commitment to the inviolable values of democracy and the freedom of the media.

Expecting news of expedient action taking in this regard and thanking you for your support and understanding,

I remain,

Yours sincerely,

N.V. Kanamailnathan,
Chief Editor, Udayan
[This is a edited version of original letter]

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