Tamil Journalists in the war-affected area have voiced their support for an international inquiry.

This inquiry specifically demands an investigation into the killings of journalists in the country. The inquiry comes on the day of the 20th anniversary of Ayyathurai Nadesan.

This call for an international inquiry has been voiced by Tamil scribes even when no such support has come from Sinhalese or Muslim journalists.

Journalists attached to the Batticaloa Press Club (BPC) have sought an international inquiry into the murders of at least 43 media persons. Among them 35 are Tamil journalists whilst the rest comprise five Sinhala journalists and three Muslim journalists.

“Since no justice will be rendered concerning the killing of these journalists in Sri Lanka, the responsibility of getting justice for them lies with the international human rights organizations,” a media statement from the Batticaloa Press Club said.

Their demand for an international probe came on the occasion when they assembled to pay tribute to the slain Tamil journalist Ayyathurai Nadesan, a popular media person in the Eastern city of Batticaloa who was shot dead in broad daylight 20 years back.

Events were also organized to pay tribute to Nadesan by the Press Clubs in Jaffna, Vavuniya, and Mullaitivu. Nadesan’s portrait was displayed at the respective press clubs with journalists paying floral tributes and lighting a candle in his memory.

A separate event was organized by the Eastern Journalist Forum, Sri Lanka Professional Web Journalists Association, North, East and South Media Societies in Batticaloa. Here, journalists from the south participated and paid tribute to Nadesan. None of his killers’ have been brought to justice despite enough circumstantial evidence and eyewitness accounts being there.

The same has been the case with other popular journalists such as ‘Taraki’ Sivaram who was killed in the capital of Colombo in April 2005. Also slain was Mylvaganam Nimalarajan when a grenade was thrown into his house and subsequently shot as he was reporting for the BBC Sinhala service Nadesan, Sivaram and Nimalarajan were among the Tamil journalists at the forefront of exposing state atrocities and reporting the actual incidents occurring in the war zone.

Similarly, Lasantha Wickremetunge, Editor of the Sunday Leader was assassinated in Colombo in January 2009. Lasantha’s killing is yet to be solved. Another Sinhala journalist and cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda cannot be traced since he went missing in January 2010.

The killing and abduction of journalists had continued for decades. Journalists say these atrocities increased rapidly during the presidency of Chandrika Bandaranaike and Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Even after the civil war came to a bloody and brutal end in May 2009, the intimidation and arrest of Tamil journalists continued.

Tamil journalists were summoned to police stations for flimsy reasons. Posting a picture of the ‘Maveer Naal’ (Hero’s Day) observation, remembering their war dead, praying their solemn tributes. Exposing state atrocities like land grabbing, depriving the livelihood of the Tamil working class and carrying out their regular newsgathering work was enough to warrant a visit to the police station.

In recent times, such intimidation and summoning for inquiries have become more common in the war-torn Northern Province. Two senior journalists were summoned before the dreaded Sri Lanka terror police alleging they pictured military posts in the war-ravaged Mullaitivu district. Phones and working laptops were seized and searched before being returned and journalists were forced to part with their device’s passwords.

Batticaloa Press Club journalists point out that although the Sri Lankan government began investigations into the death of two Sinhala journalists none of the alleged perpetrators have been arrested so far. "But in the case of Tamil Journalists, even those enquiries have not begun," they alleged. They also say the media played a big role in ousting whom they call a ‘murderous regime’ from power.

While observing the 20th death remembrance day of murdered Tamil journalist Ayyathurai Nadesan, the BPC, Batticaloa district Tamil Journalists Union, and East Sri Lanka Journalist’s Association jointly appealed to the international human rights group to press for an international inquiry to render justice for all those journalists killed brutally by the state agencies and their associates.

Their demands include the official release of details about the journalists who were either killed or disappeared with their names and other information.

BPC also sought the reopening of the Ayyathurai Nadesan’s murder inquiry who was killed in Batticaloa.

Quoting the popular adage “Justice delayed is Justice denied,” BPC emphasized they are in such a dire situation and have been forced to seek international intervention. Since even after two decades of Nadesan’s murder, justice remains an illusion in Sri Lanka and their only hope lies in international inquiries.

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