Newspaper Editor Arrested and Ill-Treated
International PEN is seriously concerned by the arrest of newspaper editor Nadesapillai Vithyatharan under emergency legislation on February 26, 2009, apparently for his reporting. PEN is also disturbed by reports that Mr. Vithyatharan was ill-treated in custody after his arrest and seeks assurances of his well-being as a matter of urgency. PEN fears that Vithyatharan may be held solely for his legitimate reporting and therefore in denial of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. PEN continues to be alarmed at the rising number of journalists in Sri Lanka who are attacked with apparent impunity, and calls upon the government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to ensure that all journalists are able to report on the current conflict freely and without fear of attack.
According to PEN’s information, Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, editor-in-chief of the Tamil-language dailies Sudar Oli and Uthayan, based in Colombo and Jaffna respectively, was arrested while attending a funeral in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital city. The authorities have stated that the editor’s detention is in connection with his reporting on an attack on Colombo by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on February 20, 2009, and for having links to the LTTE, but no formal charges have been made known.
This excerpt from a press release published by Human Rights Watch on March 1, 2009 gives further details:
The Sri Lankan government should either free a longtime newspaper editor arrested on February 27, 2009, or charge him with a credible offense, Human Rights Watch said today. N. Vithyatharan, editor of the Tamil daily newspapers Sudar Oli in Colombo and Uthayan in Jaffna, was arrested without a warrant and, family members said, severely beaten in custody.
A Sri Lankan defense ministry spokesman told the media that Vithyatharan was being held in connection with the February 20 attack on Colombo by two Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) airplanes, which killed three people and wounded 43. The spokesman said that Vithyatharan was being investigated for two reports published in Sudar Oli, on February 6 and 11, but provided no further information…
Three uniformed police officers and three men in plain clothes arrested Vithyatharan at a family funeral in Colombo and bundled him away in a white van, family members said. No warrant was presented. A Colombo police spokesman, Ranjith Gunasekera, initially told the media that Vithyatharan had been abducted by an unidentified group in a white van. He later confirmed that the Colombo Crimes Division had arrested Vithyatharan under Sri Lanka's emergency regulations, which are increasingly being used against government critics.
Vithyatharan is currently in detention at the Colombo Crimes Division headquarters. His brother-in-law, E. Sarwanapavan, told Human Rights Watch: "After he was taken away, Vithyatharan was blindfolded and beaten severely on the legs and head. (He was beaten) so much that the police had to take him to a hospital to get his head X-rayed. His wife and children have met him twice but have been very disturbed by his condition”.
Staff members of the popular Tamil dailies Uthayan and Sudar Oli, which have been critical of the government's military offensive against the LTTE, have been repeatedly targeted. Six of the media group's employees have been killed since 2005, and its offices in both Jaffna and Colombo have been attacked several times.
Vithyatharan's arbitrary arrest and alleged mistreatment was just the latest in a series of attacks against journalists critical of the government, Human Rights Watch said.
Write A Letter
- Expressing serious concern at reports that editor Nadesapillai Vithyatharan has suffered ill-treatment in custody, and seeking assurances of his well-being;
- Expressing concern that editor Nadesapillai Vithyatharan may be held in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and if so calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
- Expressing alarm about the rising number of journalists in Sri Lanka who continue to be attacked with apparent impunity, and calling upon the government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to ensure that all journalists are able to report on the current conflict freely and without fear of attack.
Send Your Letter To
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Fax: +94 11 2446657
Hon. Amarasiri Dodangoda
Minister of Justice and Law Reforms
Ministry of Justice and Law Reforms
Superior Courts Complex,
Fax: +94 11 2445447
H. M. G. S. Palihakkara
Permanent Mission of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
630 Third Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 986-1838
Email: [email protected]
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Sri Lanka in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after April 13, 2009: ftw[at]pen.org