Sri Lanka: opposition newspaper editor badly beaten

Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, editor of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, was on Friday evening beaten by unidentified men with iron bars in the northern Sri Lankan city of Jaffna. Having been rushed to hospital with critical head injuries, he remains unconscious. Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) says that while physical attacks against journalists have largely fallen since 2010, threats and acts of intimidation continue to be common in Sri Lanka. In May, Kuhanathan’s colleague, reporter S. Kavitharan, was attacked by armed men as he made his way to work.

Syria: forces storm Hama ahead of Ramadan

Syrian forces stormed the opposition stronghold of Hama on Sunday, in a bid to crush demonstrations before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. By this morning (1 August), the death toll had been reported to have reached 84. The head of the political department of the Syrian army, Lieutenant General Riad Haddad, called the attacks on some cities an “indispensable necessity” to defend and protect the country. With Friday prayers having been a major rallying point for protests, more frequent visits to mosques during Ramadan might raise the potential for more regular demonstrations. But the weekend’s crackdown may well spur more protests and widespread violence during the holy period. Meanwhile, foreign journalists remain banned from Syria, leaving much reporting in the hands of activists and citizen journalists, who face considerable risk.

Guinea: censorship measures put pressure on RFI

Guinea’s state-controlled media regulatory agency this week imposed a “temporary” ban on media coverage of the 19 July attack on the private residence of President Alpha Condé, silencing private radio and television debate programmes in which questions were being raised over the event.

Radio France Internationale (RFI), a popular international radio station in French-speaking Africa that had originally planned to debate the attack during one of its daily news call-in programmes, has felt the pressure of the ban. Its deputy director told the Committee to Protect Journalists: “We are not submitting to a censorship measure; we regret it and we hope that it will be temporary.”  In the past, RFI has had its broadcasts temporarily banned and reporters expelled in several sub-Saharan African countries, though it continues to assert its editorial independence.