Young journalist Rajivarman was killed by EPDP -29.04.2007

Well over 10 journalists have killed in the  period (2002 – 2008) by the attacks of SL army and the  paramilitary group.  So far none has ever been brought to account for these acts.  The fate of journalism as the “Fourth estate” is in jeopardy, and journalists will have no choice but to decide whether they are ready to make the supreme sacrifice for their work. In Sri Lanka, the gun is sharper than the pen.

Selvarajah Rajivarman, 25, a young journalist working at Jaffna’s Uthayan newspaper was shot and killed on 29.04.2007  by gunmen riding in a motorbike at Naavalar Road, Rasaavin Thoaddam junction around 10:00 a.m. The journalist was on duty collecting news in Jaffna town, according to the Uthayan officials. Mr. Rajivarman was a talented and energic newsreporter who was also attending an external degree course at Jaffna Univeristy according to North Sri Lanka Journalists Association (NSLJA) . Rajivarman was working as a staff reporter and was on training since he had joined the daily 6 months ago. He had earlier worked as staff reporter at Jaffna Thinakkural and previously in Namathu Eezhanaadu. Rajivarman is from Aavarangkaal East, Puththoor in Valikaamam. (Tamilnet)

The statement of The Exiled Journalists’ Network – EJN :  Media freedom is getting worse particularly in Yaalppanam (Jaffna – 2006 ) which has become one of the most dangerous places for journalism in the world. Here, field or on-the-spot coverage has long ceased to be the norm with editors constantly confined to their offices; editorial staff curtailed; the military calling the shots on the dos and don’ts; an embargo on newsprint; and restrictions placed on Colombo-based Tamil media outlets. In the troubled eastern part of the country the story is the same, with Mattakalappu  (Batticaloa) deserted by experienced journalists and Tamil provincial journalists abandoning their profession. 

According the reports, The EPDP shot and killed Rajivarman. The newspaper is considered neutral, it does have  no access to information from the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE).  But Rajivarman was a suspect person for EPDP.

The situation changed in 2006, as Sri Lankan government forces reestablished their presence in Yaalppanam (Jaffna) town and some other parts of the peninsula. The EPDP then began to support as usual the government in its anti-LTT operations, as well as to initiate its own attacks against suspected Eelamtamils, LTT cadres, supporters, and former EPDP people who switched their allegiance to the LTT.

While the EPDP has denied having armed cadres and conducting security operations, several independent observers have concluded otherwise. For example, after a mission to Sri Lanka in late 2005, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, mentioned in his report the “continuing operation of armed EPDP cadres in the islands off the Jaffna peninsula.” Amnesty International stated that it had received “credible reports” of the involvement of EPDP armed cadres alongside Sri Lanka navy personnel in the killings of 18 civilians on northern  Oorkavalthurai (KaytsIsland) on May 13-14, 2006. Local groups and media also believed that EPDP cadres alongside the Sri Lankan navy were responsible for the killings.

Reports by credible local human rights groups referred to specific incidents of attacks by armed EPDP cadres-for example, a May 2006 attack on the office of the  newspaper, Uthayan, which left two staff members dead and three injured.

The family of 25-year-old Thiyagarajah Saran said that on February 20, 2007, a group of men they believed to be from the military and the EPDP took him away from his residence in East Puttur, a village 13 kilometers from Jaffna town. The relatives said that some of the perpetrators spoke Sinhala, and some were native Tamil speakers. They all wore military pants and T-shirts and were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and pistols. As the perpetrators were leaving the house, the family said, part of the group left in the direction of the Puttur army camp, while others moved in the direction of the Achchuveli EPDP camp.

At a meeting with Human Rights Watch in April 2007 , a  number of other witnesses also referred to EPDP “camps” in Yaalppanam (Jaffna) as places where they went to search for their missing relatives. But EPDP leader Douglas Devananda said that the EPDP does not have any “camps,” just “offices,” one of which is indeed located in Achchuveli.

The statement of  Dr Ibrahim Seaga Shaw Press Freedom Forum Series :
RSF notes that, journalist Nadesan’s statement attests to how difficult working conditions are for journalists in Sri Lanka. Yet in its 2004 special report on the situation in the country, the Paris-based press freedom organisation noted that the polarisation of the country’s media workers along ethnic and religious lines, leading to an increase in the exchange of hate messages in the news discourse, constituted a major constraint to the observance of journalistic professionalism and, by extension, an increasing danger to their safety. 


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