Sri Lanka : Most of the 19 ‘Journalists’ killed were LTTE or killed by LTTE

– by Shenali D Waduge

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists – CPJ has released a list of 19 ‘journalists’ it claims to have been killed since 1992 in Sri Lanka. CPJ includes 39 journalists killed worldwide in 2013 – none reported in Sri Lanka since January 2009. In total 1007 journalists are said to have been killed worldwide since 1992, 595 of this number murdered with impunity, whatever that implies, meanwhile 456 journalists are said to live in exile since 2008. When terrorists do not have an internationally accepted definition and neither do journalists we arrive at a very tricky scenario of who and who are not terrorists/journalists. Despite terrorism not having a definition we are well aware that the LTTE has been identified by 32 nations as a terrorist outfit and if an organization is declared terrorist its members must be also terrorists. Therefore the majority of the ‘journalists’ names featured by CPJ unfortunately belong to the category of ‘terrorist’ while a large number of others killed have been gunned down by the LTTE. How does this equate to murder with impunity and zero press free media in Sri Lanka?

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists is just one of the many organizations claiming to protect the freedoms of journalists. With no acceptable definition and the unlikelihood of one it is good to quote how North Carolina’s law defines a journalist –

Any person, company, or entity, or the employees, independent contractors, or agents of that person, company, or entity, engaged in the business of gathering, compiling, writing, editing, photographing, recording, or processing information for dissemination via any news medium. When people are in the ‘business’ it certainly raises on behalf of whom they write for all ‘journalists’ working for a living have to comply to the rules and regulations of the employer. Therefore can there be an unbiased media or free media today?

With communication being the new battleground it is important how media in all its forms gains itself leverage as the watchdog of all that happens around the world and in one’s country. Thus, much effort is made to promoting media amongst the world public as indispensable. They are quick to come to each other’s defense, they offer awards amongst each other, they are aligned to the world’s powerful bodies and corporate entities – in other words like the humanitarian organizations they become no different to foreign governmental organizations, with local entities ever ready to speak on behalf of foreign governments without backing their own nation.

CPJ we may well remember was quick to award J S Tissanayagam no sooner he was arrested for links with LTTE. Which goes to show that media entities quickly garner together in solidarity irrespective of the wrongs been done.

The release of a list of 19 journalists killed is likely to be quoted during CHOGM and used against the Government and military forces as foundation to prove the already concluded notion that the nation is bordering ‘authoritarian’ rule – in Navi Pillay’s own words. Little merit is given to the fact that regular elections are held and politicians are voted in to office.

Top of Form

The 19 ‘Journalists’ named by CPJ according to their website categorized as MOTIVE CONFIRMED

Name of ‘JOURNALIST’ Date / Reason for Death
1. Shoba

Other names Isaipriya or Isaippiriya

Member of LTTE

Sri Lanka’s Defense Ministry declares ‘SHOBA’ as Lt. Col. Issei Piriya – member of the LTTE. She died during battle with 53 Division troops on May 18 May 18 or 19, 2009, in Mullivaikkal. She even appears in the annual sensationalized Channel 4 dramas on behalf of Tamil Diaspora.She has undergone LTTE military training. Her LTTE Identity Card was 03424-T ESAYRUVI

She was married to senior Sea Tiger Trincomalee leader Siri Ram, who carried out many operations against the SL navy

Yet CPJ quoting Tamilnet and Channel 4 describes SHOBA as a ‘journalist’ – CPJ even called for an international inquiry into her death!!!

WOULD CPJ describe Al Qaeda TV presenters as ‘Journalists’ TOO and question US on drones that have killed them?

2. Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy

Supporter of LTTE


CPJ describes him a ‘supporter of the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)’ … who ‘wrote for many pro-Tamil publications and frequently contributed to official LTTE media’. He gave ‘live commentaries from conflict zones’ He was killed in a Sri Lankan artillery barrage in the Mullaitheevu district on February 12, 2009,
3. Lasantha Wickramatunga editor-in-chief of the weekly The Sunday Leader, killed by unidentified gunman – 8 January 2009Various sensationalism has resolved around the murder. The case remains unconcluded and investigations are continuing.
4. Rashmi Mohamed

Killed by LTTE

correspondent for Sirasa TV died on October 6, 2008 at UNP rally in Anuradhapura by a LTTE suicide bomber targeting Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera who also died alongside 27 others.
5. Paranirupasingham Devakumar

Killed by LTTE

May 28, 2008, in JaffnaJaffna correspondent for the independent channel News 1st, was stabbed to death when he was attacked by supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), according to Sunanda Deshapriya, spokesman for local press freedom group the Free Media Movement


6. Suresh Linbiyo

Member of LTTE

Voice of Tigers (LTTE run radio station) – November 27, 2007, in Kilinochchi by a Sri Lankan Air Force air strikeVoice of Tigers”, (VOT),is a clandestine radio station operated by the LTTE

Tamilnet, the LTTE propaganda channel admitted the 3 VOT members were LTTE which again questions why CPJ would include them as ‘journalists’.

7. T. Tharmalingam

Member of LTTE

Voice of Tigers (LTTE run radio station) – November 27, 2007, in Kilinochchi by a Sri Lankan Air Force air strike
8. Isaivizhi Chempiyan

Member of LTTE

Voice of Tigers (LTTE run radio station) – November 27, 2007, in Kilinochchi by a Sri Lankan Air Force air strike
9. Selvarajah Rajeewarnam a journalist for the Uthayan newspaper, was shot dead on 29 April 2007 while on his bicycle by unidentified gunmen
10. Subash Chandraboas editor of a small Tamil-language monthly magazine, Nilam (The Ground), was shot to death at around 7:30 p.m.
11. Subramaniyam Sugitharajah a part-time reporter for Tamil-language daily Sudar Oli killed on January 24, 2006, in Trincomalee while his way to workCPJ website states that The newspaper and its Jaffna-based sister publication Uthayan came under attack by both LTTE and anti-LTTE forces in political violence


12. Relangi Selvarajah & husband

Killed by LTTE

Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corp – Gunned down on August 12, 2005, in Colombo by unidentified gunmen on the same day as Lakshman Kadiragamar assassination.

Selvarajah’s husband was affiliated with the formerly militant and now mainstream group, the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE)

PLOTE is critical of LTTE

13. Dharmeratnam Sivaram

Known also as Taraki

A founding member and contributor to TamilNet and a military and political columnist for the English language Daily Mirror

April 29, 2005, in Colombo

Sivaram was a former member of PLOTE who defected to the LTTE. Rajan Hoole who was critical of Sivaram’s role as the’s editor, said he was involved in the murder of two PLOTE dissidents during his days as a Tamil militant.

Investigation continues and member of an armed gang has been arrested in this connection.


14. Lanka JayasundaraKilled by LTTE Wijeya Publications

December 11, 2004 by an LTTE grenade attack at a music concert

15. Bala Nadarajah Iyer


Killed by LTTE

Thinamurasu and Thinakaran

August 16, 2004, in Colomboa journalist, writer, and political activist with the opposition Tamil group the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP)

16. Aiyathurai Nadesan

pen name Nellai G. Nadesan


May 31, 2004, in Batticaloa

17. Mylvaganam Nimalarajan BBC, Virakesari, Ravaya

October 19, 2000, in JaffnaSix months after the murder of journalist Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, RSF queries President Kumaratunga

18. Anura Priyantha

Killed by LTTE


Independent Television Network

December 18, 1999, in Colombo – LTTE suicide bomb aimed at President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at an election rally in Colombo

19. Indika Pathinivasan

Killed by LTTE


Maharaja Television Network

December 18, 1999, in Colombo – LTTE suicide bomb aimed at President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at an election rally in Colombo

The above happens to be the list that will be infamously quoted as being the 19 reasons why the Government of Sri Lanka is guilty of MURDERING MEDIA, where NO MEDIA FREEDOM prevails. These will be quoted worldwide using whatever other terminologies in vogue amongst the same set of people making the reports, pointing fingers and coming up with solutions.

What has bypassed their attention is that out of the 19 MURDERED ‘journalists’ how many are actually qualified to be called a journalist per se.

When 32 nations designate the LTTE as a terrorist organization, banned by their own country laws how is it remotely possible for members of the LTTE to become journalists when they are eliminated by the armed forces? If the US Navy Seals can uninformed to Pakistan Government enter Pakistan and eliminate unarmed Osama bin Laden and his son, on what grounds is it prohibited for the Sri Lankan armed forces to take action against a similarly categorized terrorist group inside Sri Lanka’s own territory?

If so, ‘journalists’ categorized as No. 1, 6, 7, 8 are NOT journalists but members of the LTTE. Moreover, ‘journalist’ No. 2 Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy by virtue of being a supporter of the LTTE puts him into the category of terrorist too. Thus, 5 out of the 19 ‘journalists’ are not qualified in the least to belong to the list of ‘journalists’ killed. CPJ needs to immediately remove these names from their listing.

Next, we come to the question of how these journalists died. Journalists featured under no. 4, 5, 12, 14, 15,18 and 19 were all killed by LTTE – thus, 7 out of the 19 journalists listed by CPJ have been killed by the LTTE (which is almost half of the number being quoted)

In what is easily attempted to mislead the reading public the CPJ claims that since 1992 – 19 journalists have been killed and the motive for their killing is given as confirmed. However, the motive is not explicitly given and no one is accused. Killed by ‘unidentified’ gunmen cannot be written off as being the responsibility of the Government. Most of these journalists had been members of armed groups, they had turned sides and tides, jumped from one group to another, written on behalf of one and then jumped ship and these situations are likely to have fostered various personal enemies over the years not necessarily from one. In the case of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the most high profile killing in the 19 named, we may well recall how the joint opposition Presidential candidate himself was accused of complicity in the murder. Speculations apart there is no hard evidence and in the absence of such we will simply be opportunities for turning stones and hurling stones.

We next come to the question of the lack of freedom of press and the ‘fear’ with which journalists write. If one writes lies, distorts truth and works to a malicious agenda it is one’s conscience that will always be pricking the nerves because the guilt of one’s actions will always shadow every thought and letter being penned.

Taking the statistics together it is easy to deduce the dates of these 19 murders

The last murder to have taken place was the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga on 8 January 2009. We shall omit reference to Shoba, Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy and the 3 LTTE members of Voice of Tigers on account of them being LTTE and thus legally not entitled to be referred to as ‘journalists’.

Taking the 19 killings, omitting members and supporters of the LTTE the last killing was in 2009 and not a single killing has taken place since January 2009 to date in October 2013. How can media personnel be living in fear?

The CPJ has also included a separate list of 6 other journalists and categorized the motive for their murder as ‘unconfirmed’

These ‘journalists are:

1. Sahadevan Nilakshan – editor of Chaalaram magazine shot at by unidentified gunmen on 1 August 2007 in Jaffna

2. Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah – editor of Namathu Eelanadu killed outside home on 20 August 2006. He was a MP of the TULF and member of TNA.

3. Sampath Lakmal – reporter for Sathdina, killed on 1 July 2006

4. Vasthian Anthony Mariyadas – freelance reporter for Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation killed on 31 December 1999.

5. Atputharajah Nadarajah – editor of Thinamurusu. EPDP Member of Parliament 02 November 1999, in Colombo

6. Rohana Kumara – editor of Satana (UNP financed) killed by unidentified men on 7 September 1999 in Colombo.

However, there are some accusations of attacks on media and of late we have the examples of 2 journalists to take note of.

‘Faraz Shauketaly‘ of the Sunday Leader was shot at on 15 February 2013. The Sunday Leader carried several articles on the attack ‘Leader Journalist Shot – Eswaran Ratnam, ‘The Shooting of ‘Faraz Shauketaly‘ by Emil Van de Poorten writing that ‘shooting of Faraz Shauketaly is being treated (and will be treated and could be treated) in the Debacle of Asia (DoA), members of the Opposition all rushed with the obvious insinuation that it was a ‘Govt’ job. The insinuation and implication will always remain because ethical journalism has not meant that none of the accusations were ever corrected when the real reasons for the attacks were disclosed. The personal nature of his relationship leading to a recurrent monetary dispute being the center of the issue was never disclosed and will never be because it serves a better agenda to have the incident remain an attack on ‘media’.

The next case of attack comes with the news of a robbery on 23 August 2013 at the home of Mandana Ismail Abeywickrama Co-editor of the Sunday Leader. A suspect was killed by police, 3 were arrested. The immediate reaction was to implicate the Government and the armed forces. The interrogation revealed that the robbers had decided to rob a house ad hoc after a drinking binge in Bambalapitiya. Contrary to the version being floated to insinuate a totally different version the robbers had robbed both cash and items which included 18 nos of Rs.2000 notes, bangles, bracelets, pendants, rings, earrings total number over 60 items all of which were recovered barring an earring.. It is also true that 2 army deserters were among the 5 member gang and the army disclosed full details of them. 3 of the 5 were brothers. One of the soldiers had been arrested in September 2009 while in service for theft. The suspects too have been produced in court. However, the co-editor is now living overseas thanks to the false accusation on a highly controversial and questionable accusation of ‘media attack’. This like Shauketaly’s case cannot be categorized as a media attack though despite placing the facts it has suited vested parties and groups to continue to maintain the former version of things with the likelihood of being coveted journalistic awards for unfettered media service when the entire incident is out of scope and nothing to do with any role in media.

Its just as well that despite being pressed against the wall the Government and military continues to desist from putting the garbage out of those accusing them but the public deserves the right to know exactly how angelic these media fraternity actually are and how man skeletons are hidden inside their own closets whilst pretending to be doing the public a service.