Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

S Lanka editor arrest criticised

Protesting journalists in Sri Lanka
Many Sri Lankan journalists have protested at the increasing attacks

A journalist watchdog has criticised Sri Lanka's government over the arrest of a Tamil-language newspaper editor.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said the detention of Nadesapillai Vidyatharan was repression of media outlets critical of the government.

Officials said he was arrested in connection with an air raid by Tamil Tiger rebels on the capital, Colombo.

Campaigners say Sri Lanka is fast becoming one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

More than a dozen have been killed in the country since August 2005.

'Immediate release'

The editor of the Sudar Oli Tamil daily, Mr Vidyatharan was detained by police on Thursday while attending a funeral in Colombo.

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Colombo says police first reported he was abducted but later admitted he had been detained.

The government says he has been arrested in connection with last Friday's air attack.

Sri Lankan soldier walking through ruins of Mullaitivu
Sri Lanka's army is pushing the Tigers into a shrinking territory

A police spokesman told the BBC they were questioning the journalist for a second day.

The spokesman said he was not sure whether formal charges would be brought.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for Mr Vidyatharan's immediate release.

There have been a number of unsolved attacks on the media in recent weeks.

Last month, a prominent newspaper editor critical of the war with Tamil Tiger rebels was killed by gunmen.

A private TV station was attacked by a group of armed men and another editor was stabbed.

International media rights groups say that often no-one is brought to justice.

The government has condemned all the attacks and says its investigations are continuing.

'Fierce fighting'

Meanwhile, government troops have entered deeper into rebel-held territory in the north, the military says.

Soldiers entered Puthukkudiyiruppu, the last town under rebel control, on Tuesday and fierce fighting is going on in the area, it says.

Puthukkudiyiruppu is on a narrow strip of land in the north-east still controlled by the Tigers.

The military says if the town falls, the rebels will be confined to a small coastal strip, some villages and a patch of jungle.

The Tigers have been driven from most of the territory they held by an army offensive in the past few months.

But the military says the offensive has slowed because of the presence of tens of thousands of civilians in the area.

Independent journalists cannot travel to the conflict zone so reports from either side cannot be verified.

About 70,000 people have died in the past 25 years in the Tigers' fight for a separate homeland in the north and east.


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