Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is disturbed to learn that the Sri Lanka
Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) has been blocking and in other ways interfering
with BBC World Service programs that SLBC has contracted to carry over its FM
The SLBC and the BBC have had a
contractual relationship whereby the latter provides programming in English, Sinhala and Tamil for rebroadcast through the
former’s FM channels. According to a press release issued by the BBC, the SLBC - Sri
Lanka’s national broadcaster - has been
blocking and in other ways interfering with these broadcasts, in violation of the agreed contractual terms.
Between November 27 and early
January, there were reportedly 17
cases of the BBC Tamil broadcast being blocked or interfered with in other
ways. The BBC Sinhala service recorded eight such instances.
A formal protest seemingly made no
substantive difference, following which the BBC suspended its programming for
the SLBC, effective today.
“The IFJ believes that if the BBC is
deemed good for delivering news and information to the Sri Lankan audience in
times of peace, it should also be
deemed good in a time of war,” IFJ
General Secretary Aidan White said.
“The SLBC should fully honour its
contractual commitments. This manner of picking and choosing what broadcasts it
would like to carry in accordance with the convenience of the moment is contrary
to all notions of the right to free speech and the public right to information.”
The BBC’s action comes at a time
when reporting by local and foreign media on the war in Sri Lanka is
under intense attack from senior government ministers who allege partisan reporting on the
situation regarding civilian casualties and suffering in areas of conflict
between government forces and Tamil separatist insurgents.
On February 1, Defence Secretary
Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned that foreign media organisations would face “dire
consequences” and be “chased out” of the country if they did not behave
“responsibly”. He singled out CNN, Al-Jazeera and the BBC.
Several of Sri Lanka’s most well-known
journalists have left the country fearing for their lives following the murder
of Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor in
chief of the Sunday Leader, on January 8.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries