Kopay cop arrested over Jaffna scribe assault | Sunday Observer

Kopay cop arrested over Jaffna scribe assault

Jaffna-based DAN TV journalist Nadarajah Kugaraj was reporting on a petrol bomb blast, allegedly carried out by the notorious Ava gang operating in the war-affected region last Tuesday (19) when a policeman attached to the Kopay Police Station demanded that he stop filming the explosion.

When the journalist told the policeman that he was only doing his job, the cop allegedly pushed his camera away and punched him in the face, resulting in a cut lip and bruises.

With blood pouring from an open wound in his mouth, the journalist was taken to the Jaffna hospital. He was approached by the police there, demanding him to ‘settle the case’. Kugarajah says he was even threatened, but he refused demanding disciplinary action against his attacker.

‘I went to the hospital by motorcycle and the doctor asked me to get admitted. I was discharged after six hours,’ he said.

Kugarajah said several police officials called him to reconsider pressing charges against the assailant.

‘I told them to see me in courts. I do not want to leave the country due to intimidation. I want to stay in the country and continue with my work,’ Kugarajah said.

His assailant was immediately arrested and produced at the Jaffna Magistrate’s Court the next day. The policeman has since been given bail and the case will be taken up again on March 26. The incident drew sharp rebuke from press freedom watchdogs in the country. The Free Media Movement ‘Strongly condemning’ the assault demanded authorities to probe the incident immediately. It viewed the assault as a ‘major blow to freedom of expression’ in a situation where North and South based journalists ‘had not got justice for rights violations’. In a letter addressed to President Maithripala Sirisena the Pakistan Press Foundation expressed its concern and condemned the attack. PPF Secretary General Owais Aslam Ali in his letter has condemned this brutal attack on a journalist for doing his job and urged the concerned authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter and hold the officer responsible for this attack.

Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian Mathiaparanan Abraham Sumanthiran posted a picture on Twitter with the assaulted journalist, saying: “Met Kugan in Jaffna today. Glad he is ok and is able to work as before. While strongly condemning this wanton assault, we also recognise the prompt action taken to arrest the policeman concerned and produce him in court on the same day.” Senior DIG Roshan Fernando told The Hindu newspaper that based on the department’s investigation, appropriate action will be taken on the policeman. “We do not tolerate such actions from policemen. The law is for everybody, you just cannot assault someone like that,” The Hindu reported SDIG Fernando as saying. “Just like the police, journalists too had a right to carry out their professional duties”.

The house in Kokuvil East, where Kugarajah was gathering video footage of, came under arson attack by eight armed men. The men have pelted stones at the house, set fire to a van and two motorcycles that were parked near it. On Wednesday night the police were able to arrest four suspects along with the weapons, that included two swords and axes, used in the attack. Further investigations are underway.