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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2964

LTTE’s legacy of banning opposition newspapers has begun to haunt Sri Lanka’s east

Colombo, 28 October, ( : LTTE’s legacy of banning newspapers and magazines belonging to the other Tamil groups and opposition political parties has begun to haunt the East.

According to the precedent set out by the LTTE, an unnamed armed group has already banned two Tamil newspapers published from Colombo.

Furthermore, recently on 23 October it had banned another Tamil daily "Virakesari" by burning down copies of the paper taken in the van from Colombo for distribution to the news agents in the east of the country under government control.

Government of Sri Lanka has deplored the recent burning of the "Virakesari" News paper bundles sent out for distribution in the East by an unknown group in Batticaloa.

A statement released by the Sri Lanka’s Department of Information exhorted that the government was of the view that these attacks on media have been perpetrated by terrorist groups and interested parties outside the democratic mainstream.

But it was pointed out that these three newspapers which were banned by an armed group in the East of the country never condemned the LTTE for banning the rival Tamil groups’ newspapers in the North and East as well as in the Western Countries.

Even though they failed to condemn the undemocratic acts of the LTTE but they went to that extent of justifying the ban imposed by the LTTE on the newspapers and magazines belonging to the rival Tamil groups.

According to a report, an unknown group stopped a private bus and a van transporting Tamil dailies "Virakesari" and "Metro News" from Colombo to Batticaloa and Amparai, near the Kiran regional secretariat, and set fire to the news papers in a compound opposite the Government’s administrative secretariat on 23 October.

Earlier, some three months ago, the Virakesari Agents 'Murugesu & Sons' shop on the Main Street in Batticaloa was burnt down by an unknown armed group.

"Sudar Oli" and "Thinakural," both Tamil dailes published from Colombo, were banned in the beginning of the year in Batticaloa and Amparai by an armed group while Virakesari was the only Tamil news paper allowed to be taken into the Government controlled areas in Batticaloa and Amparai.

Banning of the oppositions newspapers and journals was a practice adopted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam not only in the North and East but also in Europe and North America.

Earlier up to the beginning of the year 2000, LTTE agents in the west threatened the Tamil shops not to sell any newspapers and magazines belong to other Tamil groups.

Even those EPDP cadres who distribute their popular Tamil weekly paper "Thinamurasu" in the North and East were usually hounded and gunned down by the gunmen belonging to the LTTE.

Following the precedent set out by the LTTE, armed groups in the East has started imposing ban on newspapers which published news items to discredit them.

The Information Department of Sri Lanka in a press release has condemned the burning of the Tamil Newspaper "Virakesari" last Monday in Batticalao.

The full text of the press statement by the Information Department is given below:

The Government of Sri Lanka deplores attacks on media personnel and media institutions in the north and the east. The GOSL is of the view that these attacks on media have been perpetrated by terrorist groups and interested parties outside the democratic mainstream.

The latest of such incidents is the burning of copies of Virakesari newspapers by an unknown group in Batticaloa on Monday. The GOSL deplores the incident and has ordered an immediate investigation into the incident.

H E the President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the Inspector General of Police to carryout comprehensive investigations into these incidents and report early as possible.

The GOSL is fully committed to media freedom and will continue to take every possible step to protect the media institutions and media personnel. The GOSL recognizes that an attempt to prevent distribution of newspapers is an attack on the right to information and it is totally unacceptable in a democracy.

The media has the fullest freedom to inform the people and no group or person has a right to interfere with this freedom. The GOSL will not tolerate any attempts by any group or person to harass or intimidate media and every possible step will be taken to foster, strengthen and sustain media freedom in Sri Lanka.

- Asian Tribune -

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