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Sri Lanka interrogates Tamil journalist over article from three years ago

Sri Lanka’s Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) interrogated Uthayan journalist Dileep Amuthan for over 4 hours this week, as they questioned him about a 2020 article on Maaveerar Naal, a national day of remembrance for Eelam Tamils.

Amuthan was summoned to the TID headquarters in Colombo on Wednesday, where he was questioned on the article. He was also interrogated on the paper’s publishing of images and quotes of Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), on his birthday, 26 November 2020.

Weeks after the publication, Sri Lankan police filed a case against the Jaffna-based paper under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Former MP and Uthayan’s publisher E. Saravanapavan said at the time that the case was “a way to persecute all those Tamil people, journalists and media houses, who espouse Tamil nationalism".

Saravanapavan claimed that neither he nor the newspaper's office were officially informed of the charges, and that they had found out about the case through online news reports.

The former MP outlined the newspaper's history as a key target for repressive forces, starting with the shelling of the office by the Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF) in 1985 which resulted in the killing of 7 bystanders. Uthayan's journalists and offices also frequently came under attack by Sri Lanka's security forces and paramilitaries during and after the armed conflict.

 See: Uthayan ‘worst hit’ of Sri Lanka’s media - RSF (2006)

See also: Jaffna protests Uthayan killings (2006)

At the time, Sri Lankan police had also arrested at least 19 Tamils in Batticaloa alone for allegedly posting birthday wishes on social media for the LTTE leader.

This is not the first time that Amuthan has been under pressure from Sri Lankan authorities. In 2018, the Sri Lankan Army admitted to holding a military intelligence report on the Tamil journalist.

The interrogation over the article comes as preparations for Maaveerar Naal, which is commemorated on November 27, began this week.

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