SOURCE: International Press Institute (IPI), Vienna
(IPI/IFEX) – The following is a 23 October 2008 IPI letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa:
H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa
President of Sri Lanka
Vienna, 23 October 2008
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, is deeply concerned about the recent interference with the distribution of the daily newspaper Uthayan in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna province, and the harassment of its journalists.
According to information before IPI, on the morning of 23 October, members of paramilitary groups linked to the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) interfered with the delivery of the newspaper. In addition, Uthayan employees, including its editorial staff, were reportedly prevented by EPDP cadres and government forces from leaving their homes. Continued interference will prevent the publication of at least two issues of the newspaper, causing both financial losses for the newspaper and hampering Jaffna citizens’ ability to receive information.
Uthayan is one of only three newspapers published in Jaffna, and is also the one with the largest circulation. It has been subjected to great pressure in recent years. At least three of its journalists have been killed and many of its journalists stopped coming to work out of fear of being attacked in connection with their articles, which largely cover the ongoing conflict and the humanitarian crisis it has caused.
As one of the very few sources of information for the inhabitants of Jaffna, Uthayan is of vital importance, particularly because it carries news about the security situation in the province. In times of conflict and other dangerous situations, the importance of access to timely and accurate information and news is undeniable.
IPI therefore urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that the distribution of the Uthayan newspaper quickly resumes, and that its staff is immediately permitted to return to work.
Thank you for your attention.