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Attack on editor spurs protests reporters, Colombo
Sri Lanka

August 3, 2011

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Rights activists and members of the clergy yesterday protested against an attack last week on a Tamil news editor from the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper. Gnanasundaram Kuganathan, 55, was attacked by a group of unidentified men and beaten with an iron bar on July 29. He remains in hospital in critical condition. Protesters alleged that the government was intentionally avoiding any investigation of the crime and shouted “Attacked for writing the truth” during a demonstration yesterday in Colombo. “Where is freedom of expression?” said Father Terence Fernando, a chaplain for human rights activities in the Archdiocese of Colombo, during the demonstration. “We are afraid and tired of these continued attacks. Some journalists have been assassinated, abducted, assaulted, threatened, and media institutions set on fire,” Father Fernando said. A local media forum has reported recently that 14 journalists have been killed within the past two decades, with 12 of them dead in the past five years. Uthayan often ran articles critical of the government during its struggle with Tamil rebels that lasted more than two decades and ended in 2009. “The demonstration shows that there are people who work according to their conscience. We should salute them because of their courage to take a strong stance against the attack on the Tamil journalist,” said Jehan Perera, a Catholic human rights activist and executive director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, an independent advocacy organization. “Uthayan is a challenge to the government and it is under continuous threat,” said Ramaswaran Putthirasigamany, a consultant for the newspaper. The attack on Kuganathan comes amid ongoing debate over the airing of controversial documentaries earlier this year by British broadcaster Channel 4 that claimed government troops attacked civilians and bombed a hospital in the final weeks of clashes with Tamil rebels. The documentaries sparked angry demonstrations this week by pro-government media outlets over allegations that Sri Lankan soldiers committed war crimes. “Having lived in tears for nearly three decades, now we have peace and this [is a] conspiracy by a section of the world that does not want to see the country prosper," said Reverend Sarath Hettiarachchi, a coordinator with the state president on religious affairs. Buddhist monk Galagama Dhammaransi Thero, a member of the Inter-Religious Alliance for National Unity, said it was necessary to stand by justice and truth. “We must stand together against the false allegations made by Channel 4 and sections of the Tamil Diaspora,” he said. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a panel in June to advise him on the alleged killing of civilians during the final stages of the government’s conflict with the Tamil Tigers. The UN has also called for an independent investigation into what it says could constitute war crimes. Related reports: Learn from UN report, Christians say Journalists call for media freedom bill

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