Defence Reporter Abducted and Severely Beaten In Sri Lanka

IFJ Asia
Media Release: Sri Lanka

May 23, 2008

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is outraged at the abduction and violent attack on Keith Noyahr, deputy editor and defense writer for the English weekly The Nation on May 22.

According to the Free Media Movement (FMM), an IFJ affiliate, Noyahr, 44, was abducted on his way home from work after leaving his office at around 10.30pm on Thursday evening. His vehicle was found in front of his house, its headlights on and its engine still running. Local reports suggest he was abducted while he was opening the gate to his garage.

The editor of The Nation immediately reported Noyahr’s disappearance to the Dehiwala police.

The FMM has reported that while Noyahr was returned home early this morning, he is badly hurt and is currently in intensive care.

The IFJ believes Keith Noyahr was abducted and physically assaulted as a direct result of his work as a journalist.

As a defense writer for The Nation, Noyahr has reported on the on-going conflict between the Sri Lankan Army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). According to a family member, he had received a number of threats in recent weeks.

The abduction and assault of Keith Noyahr is yet another alarming act of violence during a period of increasing hostility towards members of the media in Sri Lanka.

J.S. Tissainayagam, columnist of the Sunday Times and Editor of the website and V. Jesiharan, owner of the E-Kwality printing press and Manager of and his wife Walarmathi, remain in detention after being arrested in early March by the Terrorist Investigation Division of the Sri Lankan Police. No one has been charged in any court of law.

In 2007, Iqbal Athas, a defense correspondent and associate editor for The Sunday Times in Colombo, was attacked by the Sri Lankan government due to his criticism of government corruption and military expenditure.

The IFJ strongly condemns these attacks on members of the media community. The protection of journalists and media workers is vital not simply for freedom of the press, but also for a functioning democracy. Defense correspondents such as Keith Noyahr and Iqbal Athas in particular have a significant role in reporting on corruption within all levels of society and government.

The IFJ joins the FMM in demanding an immediate inquiry into the abduction and assault of Keith Noyahr. The perpetrators of this crime must be brought to justice and a message sent to those who attack media workers.

The IFJ congratulates the FMM and all individuals and organizations who banded together to put pressure on the government to ensure Keith Noyahr’s return.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries


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