“We will not abduct you or take you for 4th floor for interrogations. But, we will make sure you die in the road hit by our encounter teams in natural accidents and dispute-like killings. You will not become heroes among your own people and die like street dogs,” is the message re-iterated by the so-called ‘Terrorist Investigation Department’ interrogators, who operate various interrogation-cells in the North chasing the journalists in Jaffna. A Colombo-based media rights activist observing the pattern of the psychological warfare by the TID on journalists in Jaffna described the unfolding scenario as Colombo’s latest ‘shadow war’ on Tamils, similar to the one that preceded the 2009 genocidal onslaught.
On Friday, SL military intelligence officers claiming as investigators from the ‘Terrorist Investigation Department’ appeared at Valampuri Tamil newspaper office in Jaffna at 1:00 p.m. They instructed the Staff Reporter of the paper, Uthayarasa Chalin, to come to the TID station situated at Naavalar Road at the premises of former Namathu Eezhanadu Paper at 3:00 p.m.
The journalist went there after informing to all media watchdogs. The TID interrogators asked some initial questions and instructed Mr Chalin to come for a detailed session the following day.
The journalist was being harassed since he did a story on the collective rights of Tamils to observe remembrance of their war-dead Tamil fighters on Tamil Heroes Day.
In a story, he had interviewed the president of the University Teachers Union Mr I. Rajkumar, who had underlined the resolve to remember the war-dead Tamil fighters on November 27 remembrance, highlighting it as a collective right of Tamils.
On Saturday, when the journalist went for the second session, the interrogators asked him the address of the residences of Mr I Rajkumar and TNA MP S. Sritharan.
The journalist, seeking to avoid controversies, replied in the negative responding that he didn’t know the addresses. The interrogators assaulted him as they pointed at a log of date and time when the journalist had, in fact, visited the residences of Mr Rajkumar and Mr Sritharan.
After assaulting the journalist, they placed a document written entirely in Sinhala and asked him to sign it. When he declined, the interrogators attacked him. They said that it was the explanation he had given to them which was recorded in Sinhala and forced him to place his signature on the document.
The interrogators have also questioned the journalist on his educational background, about fellow Tamil reporters in Jaffna. They also questioned him about the activities of the Jaffna Press Club.
The victim journalist has earlier escaped an encounter-like-accident from a killer-squad at Neeraaviyadi.
Another reporter working for Uthayan, Dileep Amuthan, also escaped a similar ‘encounter-accident’ recently, when he was chased and hit by a three-wheeler at Thellippazhai. Mr Dileep narrowly escaped from the accident but had sustained wounds from the accident-encounter.
The SL military intelligence is running killer squads in North and East. These squads are prepared to assassinate the targets in ‘road accidents’ or by creating dispute-like scenarios, the visiting media activist from Colombo said after concluding a fact-finding mission to Jaffna and Vanni on Monday.
Some time back, the TID operatives from Naavalar Road were approaching the Yarl Thinakkural newspaper management to provide personal details such as their residential address of two staff reporters, Punitharoopan Winslow and Tharmapalan Vinojith.
The paper management declined to provide such details to the TID investigators.
However, the SL military intelligence operatives were almost chasing the two staff reporters for a while.
Later, two other reporters of Yarl Thinakkural, Nitharshan and Hamshan, were being harassed by the SL military intelligence, including threats.
The threat, consistently coming from all the anonymous callers claiming to be TID operatives or the visiting interrogators of the TID to the residences of the journalists was to be ‘prepared for death’ like ‘street dogs’ in ‘encounter like’ killings. “We will not make you heroes”, was also a message being passed to the journalists. Such messages are provided after the journalists get assaulted at interrogation sessions. Anonymous callers claiming to be from TID also threaten journalists with the same message.
The TID interrogators usually have detailed translations of the news reports filed by the journalists and a log of their activities with time and places monitored by the intelligence network of the SL military and its agents.
Recently, In Vanni, the regional correspondent of Uthayan paper was attacked at his house. Three relatives of an EPDP operative were behind the incident. An investigation was launched on the incident, but nobody was punished.
The SL military experimented already in 2001 in accident-style assassinations on media activists. Two key media workers of Uthayan paper were subjected to such attacks, and one was killed. Another key worker had sustained injuries.
Apart from harassments of psychological threats seeking to curb the activities of the journalists, the SL military squads are also prepared to commit assassinations on Tamil journalists, the media rights activist who has been interviewing the affected journalists told TamilNet on Tuesday.