Armed Men Torch Newspaper Office In Northern Sri Lanka; Newspapers Burnt Down, Printing Grinds To A Halt

 
on April 13 2013 4:18 AM

Printing machines and newspapers at a Tamil language newspaper office in northern Sri Lanka was set ablaze by armed men forcing the press to halt printing, in a second such attack on the paper in two weeks, Thevanayagam Premananth, the editor of Uthayan told Saturday.

Gunmen stormed the office of the Uthayan newspaper, in a pre-dawn attack Saturday and opened fire at the switchboard and machines and set fire to the newspapers ready for distribution.

"Three men wearing helmets threatened my staff at the printing section and set fire to the main printing machine," Premananth told Reuters.

Uthayan is a leading newspaper in the northern peninsula of Jaffna - a region dominated by the ethnic Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka. The newspaper has been critical of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government and the military. E. Saravanapavan, the owner-publisher of the newspaper blamed the military and the government for the attacks.

"Employees preparing to deliver the morning newspaper fled as the gunmen stormed in... It has to be either the government or para-militaries. Who else can carry firearms freely in Jaffna?" Saravanapavan said, adding there were no injuries but the printing press had been destroyed, AFP reported.

This is the second attack on the Uthayan in two weeks after a United Nations’ resolution on March 21 calling on the government to address human rights violations in the island nation. Last week, an unidentified group of people attacked Uthayan's distribution office in Kilinochchi in the North.

Attacks were also reported on other media houses that were critical of the government in the previous months. No arrests have been made in connection with the Uthayan attacks yet.

Michele Sison, the U.S. ambassador in Sri Lanka last week expressed his concern over rising attacks on journalists and media offices in the country, adding that none of the perpetrators of violence were brought to justice.

"We urge the Sri Lankan authorities to fully investigate (last week's) Uthayan attack and hold the perpetrators accountable," Sison told the Foreign Correspondents' Association on Monday, as reported by the AFP. Police authorities said an investigation is underway, while the military spokesman Brig. Ruwan Wanigasooriya said the allegation is baseless, adding the army will cooperate with a police investigation, as reported by the Associated Press.

Although the violence has come down in Sri Lanka, after the army crushed down the Jaffna-based Tamil rebel groups in 2009, the human right groups report that attacks on those who are critical of the government and military continue unabated. 

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