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Journalist's killing reportedly linked to coverage of paramilitary abuses

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the murder of Subramaniyam Sugirdharajan, a correspondent of the Tamil-language daily "Sudar Oli" in the eastern city of Trincomalee, who was gunned down in the early morning hours of 24 January 2006. The previous day, he wrote about the abuses committed in his region by Tamil paramilitary groups.

"We are horrified by the level of violence against Tamil journalists," the press freedom organisation said. "The impunity enjoyed by the instigators and perpetrators of these murders encourages more violence against the press. We urge Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake to do everything possible to ensure that the police identify and arrest Sugirdharajan's murderers, as well as the murderers of Relangi Sevaraja and Dharmeratnam Sivaram, who are still at large."

Sugirdharajan is the third Tamil journalist to have been killed in the past 12 months. Ten others have been arrested, physically attacked or threatened by the security forces or the Tamil armed movements.

Aged 35 and the father of two small children, Sugirdharajan was a Trincomalee port employee as well as a journalist He was shot dead at about 6 a.m. (local time) on 24 January as he was waiting for public transport to go to work. His killers used a motorcycle to get away after shooting him. Police went to the scene of the murder. According to the Tamilnet website, he was gunned down near the governor's secretariat.

In an article for the 23 January issue of "Sudar Oli", he detailed the abuses committed by Tamil paramilitary groups including the EPDP in the Trincomalee region. The newspaper also recently ran photos taken by Sugirdharajan showing that five Trincomalee students were shot dead at point-blank range on 2 January, disproving the army's claim that they were killed by a grenade explosion.

"Sudar Oli", which tends to support the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), was attacked and threatened several times last year. Two grenades were thrown at the office of its advertising department on 20 August but did not explode. Three days later, a staff journalist was roughed up and detained by the police on suspicion of being an LTTE spy. A security guard, David Selvaratnum, was killed in a grenade attack outside the newspaper's office in Colombo on 29 August. "Sudar Oli" belongs to the Jaffna-based press group Uthayan, which has also been the target of attacks.

Reporters Without Borders issued a detailed report on July 2004 about threats to journalists in eastern Sri Lanka: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10957

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