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Sri Lankan journalist abducted, beaten: rights group

 Fri May 23, 3:04 AM ET
A Sri Lanka media rights group Friday condemned the abduction and assault of a senior journalist, saying it was motivated by his criticism of the government’s war against Tamil Tiger rebels.

Keith Noyahr, a deputy editor and defence analyst with the English-language weekly The Nation, was abducted on Thursday night, severely beaten and dropped off near his residence early Friday, the Free Media Movement (FMM) said.

“There is no other reason for this latest attack against a journalist than his independent writing and analysis of the war in the North, if that is reason at all,” the media rights group said.

Noyahr had been critical of high-ranking military officers and the government’s approach to and conduct of the war, the FMM said.

“This is not just a violation of the freedom of expression and another significant blow to media freedom.

“It proves, as if more proof was needed, that Sri Lanka is very far from a country that protects fundamental rights,” the rights group said, clearly implying that it believed the Sri Lankan state was behind the abduction.

The abduction came the day after Sri Lanka was defeated in its bid to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a major diplomatic blow to the island’s hawkish government.

The administration pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the Tamil Tigers in January, and has since claimed battlefield gains and massive rebel casualties.

Journalists, however, are barred from visiting front line or rebel-held areas.

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s powerful defence secretary termed as “traitors” any reporters who published reports seen as “harmful towards the security forces,” and said the press needed to be “reigned in.”

Media rights watchdogs have described Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists after Iraq.

At least 10 media workers have been killed over the past two years, while others have been abducted, tortured, or illegally detained, London-based Amnesty International said in a report this year.

Most of the victims are Tamil journalists working in the island’s embattled north and east. Sinhalese journalists working in the south face intimidation, particularly when reporting cases of graft, Amnesty said.

The rights group said those responsible are not punished by the government.

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