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No barrier against foreign media

2013 Jul 19

By Premalal Wijerathna

 


The powerful Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, said yesterday that foreign media personnel would be free to come to Sri Lanka to cover the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and there would be no 'obstacles' nor 'barriers' against visa issuance to them. Rajapaksa said reporters from London, in an indirect reference to former BBC correspondent Frances Harrison and Callum Macrae of the No Fire Zone fame, are also free to come to Sri Lanka to cover the CHOGM. Rajapaksa's remarks indicate an about face of the earlier government position that the visiting foreign correspondents would be subjected to stringent background checking.

 

 

Indications about possible vetting of the foreign journalists by the Defence Ministry in Colombo compelled the Centre to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to write to the Commonwealth Secretary-General to ask that the Commonwealth Secretariat ensures media access to CHOGM in Colombo.

However, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, responding to our queries denied the government was planning to reject applications from some foreign correspondents.

 

 

"We have nothing to conceal. It is the Channel-4 that lies," Rajapaksa said.

"When they are in foreign countries they don't write the truth; when they are here too, they don't write the truth," he said adding, "We have done what is right and we are not afraid of false allegations or unfair criticism."

 

 

Earlier, Keheliya Rambukwella, the Cabinet Spokesman, told this newspaper that some journalists, under the pretext of 'media freedom,' have attempted to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka and that they are a 'threat' to the national security of the country and would be 'scrutinized' before the issuance of the visa.

 

 

However, since then the government's CHOGM Task Force has issued a statement in which it stated Sri Lanka remains fully committed to Commonwealth values, including a free press.

"The Terms and Conditions outlined in the online registration site are identical to the Terms and Conditions used during CHOGM 2011 in Perth, Australia," the statement said.

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