The Management and Staff of Rivira Media Corporation stood shell shocked and outraged on Thursday night (May 22) upon receiving the news that Associate Editor of The Nation and one of the paper’s most senior journalists, Keith Noyahr, had been abducted outside his residence at around 10 p.m.
Keith, who was returning home after dinner, was abducted at the entrance of his house, presumably when he got off his vehicle to open his garage gate. His wife was to find his car, minutes later, still parked outside, its engine running and headlights still on.
His abduction followed a series of threats issued against him, and, according to Keith’s close associates, seemingly because of his regular contributions to The Nation’s weekly defence column published under the nom-de-plume Senpathi.
After what seemed liked an endless vigil for Keith’s family and friends, he was ‘released,’ but not before being brutally assaulted by his abductors.
I am joined by Keith’s colleagues both at The Nation and Rivira and the wider media community, who have recognised both his valour and unprejudiced journalism, and therefore view this attack against him as a despicable act aimed at silencing a pen committed to the truth above all else.
We live in a nation where terrorism is a word much bandied about. Terrorism is words, ideologies and individuals; terrorism is also a convenient label, a weapon to be used against political detractor and dissident. But terrorism by definition rises beyond individual and organisation.
The perpetrator notwithstanding, terrorism is principally an act. This is why, we at Rivira Media Corporation, stand convinced that what happened to Keith in those hours between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on Thursday night was terrorism, in its rawest, most savage form.
Keith is a journalist by profession, but he is first and foremost a family man. On Thursday night, his abductors rendered his two small children hysterical with grief and fear that they might never see their father again, presumably because they disagreed with what he wrote.
Keith remains at the Colombo National Hospital, receiving treatment for injuries sustained, the extent of which is not yet fully known. Journalistic principle aside, it was a heavy price to pay for writing an article.
Despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, we, at Rivira Media Corporation, remain hopeful that the authorities will seek to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act of terrorism to book. We recognise that while a strong campaign to bring Keith’s abductors to justice is being waged, there are thousands in the very same plight, without voice and without hope.
In appealing for justice for Keith, we echo the same call for justice to be served to the hundreds and thousands of abductees all over Sri Lanka. We pray that this culture of impunity will be arrested forthwith – already too many have paid the highest price to satisfy the whims of a few.
We take this opportunity to thank our colleagues in the media for their stoic and unending support in this time of crisis. Keith, had he been in better condition, would have been the first to recognise this support and offer his thanks.
It was Keith, more than any of us, who was the defender of media rights; he was at every protest against the obstruction of media freedom, he would personally insist on articles being published about journalists killed for doing their job. He embodied the best of journalism in this country.
One by one, journalists in this country have been silenced. When they have not been killed to stop them reporting, they have been intimidated into reluctance to pick up a pen again. We call on our colleagues in the media therefore, to stand up against this injustice. We urge you to join with us in a campaign to bring about true democracy in this country.
May our calls be stronger than ever before; may our struggle prove a force to be reckoned with. It is a moment for collective solidarity, a time to shun rivalry, a time to stand up for each other against the forces that seek to silence and destroy us. Let us step up to the challenge, for Keith Noyahr, for the countless other scribes and perhaps for ourselves.
Krishantha Prasad Cooray
Chief Executive Officer
Rivira Media Corporation