Censorship at Sri Lankan Public Broadcaster Raises Concern

 

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned at reports that broadcasts of the

BBC Sinhala and Tamil programs in Sri Lanka were censored by the

government-controlled host network.

 

According to the five leading

journalists’ organisations in Sri

Lanka, known as the Five Media Collective,

several sections of a broadcast of a speech on November 27 by V. Prabhakaran, the

leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the subsequent

political commentary program Defence

Watch were made inaudible.

 

The Five Media Collective said it received

information to suggest that the government-controlled and publicly funded Sri

Lanka Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC), which hosts the BBC local language

programs, intervened in the broadcast to censor anti-government commentary

about Sri Lanka’s

civil conflict.

 

This act of censorship by SLBC authorities is a clear

violation of the people's right to information and is an interference with the

democratic entitlement to the free exchange and contest of alternative

perspectives on a key issue of public policy,” the Five Media Collective said

in a statement today.

 

The Five

Media Collective comprises of the Free Media Movement (FMM),

the Federation of Media Employees Trade Union (FMETU), the Sri Lanka Working

Journalists Association (SLWJA), all IFJ affiliates, and the Sri Lankan Muslim

Media Forum and the Sri Lankan Tamil Media Alliance.

“In times

of severe conflict and war it is especially important that the public has

access to information, independent reports, commentary and differing points of view.

Efforts to allow the expression of only one point of view limit opportunities

for conflict mitigation,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

said.

Independent

and critical reporting on the conflict in Sri Lanka is frequently met with

hostility by both sides to the conflict.

On June 2,

the commander of the Sri Lankan army, Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka, made

statements criticising journalists as undeserving of basic freedoms after the May

22 abduction and assault of Keith Noyahr, deputy

editor and defence writer for the English weekly The Nation.

In October

2007, Iqbal Athas, a defence correspondent and associate editor for The Sunday Times in Colombo, was verbally attacked by the Sri

Lankan government due to his criticism of government corruption and military

expenditure.

The IFJ

joins the Five Media Collective in demanding SLBC explain immediately the

reason for the interference in the broadcast and urges Sri Lanka’s

Government to end censorship.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide