“It’s a miracle that I survived. I was beaten almost to death. Many attempts have been made to kill me, so that my writing will come to an end!. I did not think that, I will survive. The God has saved me to serve the people through journalism. I am slowly recovering. Today, I am blessed to be alive. I have highlighted many issues in my writing. I want to continue to highlight the activities against the humanity, but I am not sure whether I will be able to hold the pen again, because my right hand fingers are frozen” emotionally shares Gnanasundaram Kuganathan (59) while tears filled his eyes.
The News Editor of Uthayan ~ Tamil language daily newspaper Gnanasundaram Kuganathan (59) was brutally assaulted by unknown men on 29th of July 2011 at night at 7.30pm on Kasthuriyaar road in Jaffna, as he was walking back home for dinner from work. I met him in Jaffna recently, as he is currently recovering from the severe injuries caused by the brutal assault.
“It was a Friday. On 29th of July 2011, I was walking home for dinner from the office. I shouted “அம்மா” “அம்மா” ~ Amma”, “Amma” (Mother, Mother) after the two young men hit me with iron rods on my head and right hand. I ran into my house, I was in critical condition, and later I was admitted to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital (Intensive Care Unit) by my fellow journalists. I was unconscious for three days at the intensive care unit of the hospital.
I can identify the two young men who have brutally assaulted me. One person is a tall man and the other is a short man. Both men are below 30 year old” keeps sharing Gnanasundaram Kuganathan, while holding the right hand tightly with his left hand, and continues to speak softly with his usual sweet smile. Gnanasundaram Kuganathan can communicate in Tamil, English and Sinhala. He is one among a few journalists who can communicate in all three languages in Jaffna Peninsula. He has 30 years of experience in the field of journalism. Due to the numbness in the right hand, he had to remove his wedding engagement Gold ring from the right hand to left hand ring finger.
A protest was organised by Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka Tamil Media Alliance (SLTMA), Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum (SLMMF), Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA), Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (SLMETU),Media Movement for Democracy (MMD) and South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA).Nearly 47 journalists from Colombo traveled to Jaffna by A9 highway to show solidarity. They condemned the brutal assault by protesting in front of the Sri Lanka Transport Board bus stand in Jaffna on 16thof August 2011. It was a rare protest for the Peninsula people to witness.
“ஏதாவது பிரச்சினையோ?” ~ “Is there any problem?”, “என்ன பிரச்சினை?” ~ “What is the problem?”, “இங்கை என்ன நடக்குது?” ~ “What is happening here?” a few onlookers, passers ~ by and shop keepers asked me while the protest was getting underway on a balmy day in Jaffna. “இங்கை உண்மையா என்ன நடக்குது? ~ “What is actually happening here” asked the owner of a newly built restaurant, while I was running to the restaurant roof top to capture the moments on my camera.
There was chaos as the protesters arrived in Jaffna town with placards in Tamil. Police in the vicinity came closer and asked them not to block the traffic. Verbal argument took place between the Police and the protesters. But the protesters kept chanting and walking. The traffic came to a standstill for a couple of moments, as the protesters took the space on the mot busiest road in Jaffna, the Hospital road while carrying the placards in Tamil ~ “யாழ்ப்பாண ஊடகவியலாளர்களுக்கு யார் பாதுகாப்பு?” ~ “Who is responsible for the lives of the journalists in Jaffna?”, “ஊடக சுதந்திரம் பாதுகாக்கப்பட வேண்டும்” ~ “Media freedom needs to be protected”, “எப்போ முடியும் யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் அடக்குமுறைகள்?” ~ “When will the suppression come to an end in Jaffna?”, “ஊடக சுதந்திரத்தைப் பாதுகாக்க ஒன்றுபடுவோம்” ~ Let’s unite to protect media freedom”, “குகநாதனுக்கு விழுந்த அடி உண்மைக்கு விழுந்த பேரிடி”~ Assault on Kuganathan is an assault on the Truth, “ஊடகத்துறைக்கு எதிரான அடக்குமுறையை ஒழிப்போம்” ~ Eradicate Suppression Against the Media” “ஊடகத்தின் மீதான தாக்குதலை உடனே நிறுத்து” ~ “Stop Attacking the Media Immediately”, “ஜனநாயகத்தின் குரலை ஒடுக்காதே” ~ Don’t Suppress the voice of Democracy”, “தேர்தலில் தோற்றவர்களா மண்டையைப் பிளந்தார்கள்?” ~ “Did they split the head those who lost the elections?”
The protesters chanted “Let Us Write”,“Continue; Continue; Continue to Write”,“Do Not Kill; Do Not Kill; Do Not Kill Us; Do Not Kill the Journalists, Do Not Kill the Democracy”,“Uthyan was attacked, but nobody was arrested”, “Bring the culprit to the courts”“Do Not Attack; Do Not Attack; Do Not Attack the Media”, “Take Your Hands Off Media”“Stop; Stop; Stop the Suppression” “Kuganathan; Kuganthan who wrote the plight of the people”, “Kuganathan was attacked with Iron rods”,“Kuganathan; Kuganathan; Keep Writing, Lift the Emergency Immediately” in Tamil and Sinhala. There were nearly 350 journalists, activists and politicians participated in the protest according to the organisers.
“Journalists from Colombo came to Jaffna to condemn the assault on Gnanasundaram Kuganathan and participated in the protest. It’s the best way to show solidarity. We, journalists should unite and act against the continuing suppression” says Sellappa Kathirgamathamby, the President of North Sri Lanka Journalists’ Association.
The RSF ~ Reporters Without Borders pointed out in its recent statement “This attack must not be the prelude to a new wave of violence against journalists, which has been on the wane during the past year, in part because so many journalists are in exile. We remind the authorities that impunity continues to encourage wrongdoers.”