SRI LANKA Threat (authorities attempt to prevent foreign media from covering elections in Eastern Province) 

IFEX – News from the international freedom of expression community


9 May 2008

Authorities attempt to prevent foreign media from covering elections in Eastern Province

SOURCE: Free Media Movement (FMM), Colombo

(FMM/IFEX) – The following is an FMM press release:

Attempt to bar foreign media from covering Eastern province PC election

FMM expresses its concern at the government’s attempt to bar foreign media from covering provincial council elections in Eastern Province, scheduled for 10 May 2008.

Military authorities turned back journalist Ravi Nesman and photographer Gamunu Amarasinghe of the Associated Press, insisting that they need special permission to cover the election in the East. Nesman and Amarasinghe were stopped at a checkpoint in the eastern town of Valaichchenai and ordered to leave the province and head straight back to the capital, Colombo. Apparently all check points on the main road were informed of the incident and of the license plate of the car in which the journalists were traveling. On their way back, they were told at every check point not to take any by-roads. FMM views this action by military officials as nothing less than crude intimidation.

Maj. Gen. Palitha Fernando, a senior official in the Ministry of Defense (MOD), told the journalists that foreign media need special permission to cover the elections, although no government authority provided information on this supposed new restriction or on how to obtain such permission.

MOD later reversed its decision, after journalists’ rights groups and election monitoring organizations raised the issue with authorities, protesting the arbitrary decision of its officials. General Fernando later said there had been a misunderstanding, that journalists would be allowed to cover the election, and that the reporters were allowed to return to the East.

Discouraging media from covering the Eastern Province election is a direct infringement on people’s right to information and this incident shows how easily this fundamental right is violated in Sri Lanka today, in the name of national security.

FMM calls for an investigation as to why there was an attempt to bar foreign media from covering this very crucial election. The identity of whoever was responsible for this anti-media decision should be made public. FMM urges all government authorities to extend their fullest cooperation to journalists and media outlets covering the 10 May election.

For further information, contact the Free Media Movement, 237/22, Wijeya Kumaratunga Road, Colombo 05, Sri Lanka, tel: +94 777 312 457, +94 11 257 3439, fax: +94 11 471 4460, e-mail:, Internet:

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

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Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-027-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,