Blair urged over Jaffna journalists

[TamilNet, Thursday, 22 March 2001, 07:21 GMT]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was Wednesday urged by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) to raise the issue of press freedom in Sri Lanka and in particular the murder of the BBC journalist for Jaffna, Mayilvanagam Nimalarajan, with visiting Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumratunge. In a letter Wednesday, RSF’s General secretary, Robert Menard, urged Mr. Blair also over the abusive detention of another Jaffna journalist by Sri Lankan security forces since January 2.

The full text of the RSF letter follows:

“Dear Tony Blair,

“On the occasion of your planned meeting tomorrow Wednesday, March 21 with the President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Kumaratunga, we would like to draw your attention to the press freedom situation in the country and, in particular, to the case of BBC journalist Mayilvanagam Nimalarajan.

“On October 19, 2000 Mr Nimalarajan, correspondent for a number of Tamil media and the BBC World Service in Jaffna, north of the country, was killed at his home. Unknown assailants machine-gunned the room in which he was working and then threw in a grenade. The journalist was living in a zone "made safe" by the Sri Lankan Army.

“The day after his murder, the president personally condemned the killing and promised that an investigation would be carried out by the security services. But since then no investigation has been opened. The family and colleagues suspect the EPDP, a Tamil militia that is now a member of the government coalition in Colombo and whose leader is a minister in the new cabinet of Chandrika Kumaratunga.

“The BBC journalist was known for his courageous reporting on the situation in the Jaffna peninsula, and in particular on the outrages committed by the EPDP, the ravages of war, human rights issues and corruption.

“RSF considers it important that any aid that might be forthcoming from Britain should be linked to an improvement in the human rights situation in Sir Lanka and in particular to a genuine effort on the part of the government to end the impunity enjoyed by the killers of Mayilvanagam Nimalarajan.

“We appeal to you to intervene with the president to see that a full investigation can be held as soon as possible so that the journalist's killers can be identified. We also ask you to draw her attention to the fact that some measures in the emergency laws are in contradiction with international undertakings made by Sir Lanka on human rights. For example a journalist named Subramaniam Thiruchelvam has been held abusively since January 2 this year in Colombo by a police anti-terrorism service.

“In the hope that you will feel able to take these points into account.

“Yours sincerely,
Robert Menard,
General Secretary
Reporters Sans Frontieres.”


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