World Press Freedom Day bloodied by Uthayan attack
It was the day before World Press Freedom Day. The editorial department of the Uthayan newspaper situated at Kasthuriyar road in Jaffna was preparing for Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper when three motorcycles arrived at the office.

Armed men wearing helmets and with handkerchiefs covering their faces alighted from the bikes and stormed the front office area of the building’s ground floor looking around for a senior member of the editorial staff.
One of the gunmen entered the marketing manager’s room and probably assuming it was the editorial office opened fire instantly killing marketing manager Bastian George.

Another gunman entered the adjoining room where the newspapers were being prepared for distribution and shot dead Rasaratnam Ranjith Kumar of the circulation department while he was lying down on the floor hoping to escape attention. In the almost point-blank shooting the bullets which pierced his body also badly damaged the cement floor.

Thereafter one of the gunmen carrying either a T 56 or an AK 47 demanded from a circulation department assistant the direction to the editorial office. Soon they found their way to the Editorial office on the upper floor of the building.

A senior member of the editorial department and some of his colleagues having heard the shooting had hidden themselves inside the room. The gunmen unable to find any of the staff in frustration fired at the computers causing serious damage to the equipment.

Having done their dastardly deed the gunmen who rushed back to their motor bikes appeared panicky and anxious to make a quick getaway kept calling out to the others still inside to hurry.

It did not take very long for the gunmen to get in and get out of the premises and in-between to cause maximum damage to the staff, the office and the equipment.

When one of the gunmen wanted to move towards the printing section where the offset machines were set up, a biker called out to him saying it was time to leave.

The bikers soon rode away and having entered the main road, travelled a short distance before proceeding in two different directions. Two other newspaper employees who were injured in the shooting are now reported to be out of danger.

Soon after the incident the police arrested seven people including five students and two employees of a shop who were playing a game of cards at the time of their arrest.

They were produced in courts the following day and released on bail.
A weapon reportedly found on the road after the shooting incident is to be sent for a forensic examination to determine whether it was one of the weapons used in the attack on the Uthayan newspaper office.

The editorial staff told investigators that they believed a cartoon drawn using a particular political party as the theme might have prompted the attack.
Despite the attack the Uthayan newspaper appeared on the streets the following day, though reduced to four pages from the usual 14. Police have so far failed to make any major breakthrough, while CID Assistant Superintendent J.A.C. Mark has been sent to conduct further investigations.

Chronology of attacks
1987 - The day after the IPKF bombed the Eelamurusu and the Murasoli newspaper press machines the Sri Lankan security forces launched an artillery attack on the Uthayan newspaper office area at Navalar Road. Some 40 persons died in the surrounding areas, but only two employees of the Uthayan Newspaper were injured.

1990 – Air raid on the Uthayan newspaper office in Jaffna. One employee was killed; five were injured including two who lost their hands. 1995/96 – The newspaper removed its printing machine in a tractor when the residents moved out of the area due to the military operations to capture Jaffna town. The newspaper was not published for six months.

2000 – Newspaper sealed by the government and reopened after 45 days.
2005 – Grenade attack on the Advertising office in Wellawatte. 2005 – Grenade attack on Uthayan newspaper’s Colombo office where the Sudaroli newspaper is also published. One security guard was killed.

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