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Details emerge on Tamil media workers killed in Vanni

[TamilNet, Thursday, 6 August 2009 06:58 No Comment]

TamilNet recently compiled details on Tamil journalists and media workers confirmed killed during the height of war in Vanni, between March and May. The list is not exhaustive. These media persons, committed to the human cause and engaged in the noble task of bringing out information to the people inside and to the world outside, have laid down their lives in achieving what the ‘omnipresent’ international media shamefully couldn’t accomplish. TamilNet will be serialising compilations on the losses of other humanitarian workers too in due course.

Maheswaran from Jaffna:

Maheswaran, who was Mullaiththeevu district in-charge for Eezhanaatham daily, the only newspaper that was coming from the LTTE controlled Vanni, was killed on 06 March while travelling on Maaththa’lan – Valaignarmadam Road. He was on journalistic assignment when he was killed.

In addition to his responsibilities with Eezhanaatham, Mr. Maheswaran was working freelance to TamilNet, assisting TamilNet’s Chief Correspondent in Vanni.

On the fateful day, he was on his way back after setting up TamilNet’s communication equipment to get electric charge at a civilian facility. Such facilities of generators were available only in one or two places inside the ‘safety zone’.

Maheswaran was killed in Sri Lanka Army (SLA) shelling that hit his right eye and head. There were many people on the road at that time and 24 civilians were killed in the indiscriminate SLA shelling along with Maheswaran.

Maheswaran joined Eezhanatham as a media worker in 2000 when the newspaper was functioning at Puthukkudiyiruppu of Mullaiththeevu district. He actively contributed relocating the newspaper office to Ki’linochchi. Initially, he was a Purchase Assistant, and later performed several functions, including reporting.

During peace times, he was working in Vavuniyaa district and later, recognised for his talents, he was in-charge of all activities of the newspaper in Jaffna peninsula. He had to face many death threats during this time. When situation worsened in Jaffna, Maheswaran was withdrawn to Ki’linochchi and became manager of the paper for the Mullaiththevu district.

He joined TamilNet for freelance work in 2007.

When there was widespread aerial attack on PTK, large number of people were killed and injured. He was prompt in reporting details to the TamilNet Office in Vanni. Information on several aerial attacks reached the outside world within a couple of hours because of his contribution. During a time when communication facilities were scarce in Vanni, his manual collection of news and reporting made invaluable contribution to TamilNet.

When people were confined to the strip of land between Maaththa’lan and Mu’l'li-vaaykkaal, and when they were killed and maimed in hundreds every day, visiting all places became impossible for the TamilNet’s Chief Correspondent. During this time, Maheswaran personally went to Pokka’nai and Valaignarmadam, and his eyewitness accounts of the civilian killings by the Sri Lankan forces were reported to TamilNet.

Maheswaran had already lost one of his legs in an SLA artillery attack in the war before the year 2000.

Antonykumar of Paranthan, Ki’linochchi:

Antonykumar was killed on 14 May 2009 at Mu’l'li-vaaykkaal in an RPG attack by the SLA. He was storekeeper for Eezhanaatham. Because of his efforts, the printing material for Eezhanaatham was preserved until the end even when everything was moved to the safety-zone. He also worked as an assistant to reporters and occasionally as a reporter by himself.

Rooban, 27:

Mr. Rooban also died on 14 May 2009 in SLA attack on civilians. Both Rooban and Antonykumar were killed in front of their family members. Rooban was working as a computer operator in Eezhanaatham. He was working since 2006 for the newspaper and worked hard in bringing out the newspaper under trying conditions. He was also engaged in distribution of the newspaper when people were confined to the safety-zone. Two months before his death, on 07 March 2009, he received injuries to his leg when the SLA was firing on civilians at Maaththa’lan junction.

Sasimathan from Mu’l'liya-va’lai

Sasimathan, Eezhanatham’s distributor for Mullaiththeevu district, was killed in SLA artillery attack on civilians at Ira’naip-paalai. Many civilians were killed along with him. He was working with Eezhanaatham since 2001.

Densey, 25, from Kanakapuram, Ki’linochchi

Densey and her husband were killed in SLA artillery attack at Pokka’nai while they were at home. The couple had a one-year-old child, which narrowly escaped death. Densey, who joined Eezhanaatham in 2003, was a computer operator. She worked with full commitment at Eezhanaatham even at a time when Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) was continuously bombing the surroundings of Eezhanaatham office at Ki’linochchi.

Anton, 36

Anton, father of two children, was killed in SLA artillery attack while on media work and riding a motorbike at Ira’naip-paalai area. 11 civilians were killed along with him in the attack. Anton, who joined Eezhanaatham in 2006 as a distributor, became its machine operator later. At a difficult time, he worked day and night, many days neglecting to fulfil the needs of his own family, in shifting the machines and the stores of the newspaper. Eezhanaatham was moved from Ki’linochchi to Tharmapuram first and then again from Tharmapuram to Mu’l'li-vaaykkaal. The last displacement was particularly dangerous amidst torrents of artillery shells and gunfire. Yet, due to the devotion of the workers, most needed items were transported and the newspaper was re-published. During this transportation 9 media workers were almost caught by the SLA, but narrowly escaped. Anton was one of them.

[Full Coverage]

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