Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Channel 4 team expelled from Sri Lanka?

According to a Reporters Without Borders email, Channel 4’s Asian correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh, producer Bessie Du, and cameraman Matt Jasper were briefly detained by police in Trincomalee in the east of the country before their expulsion. They are now in Bangkok with their journalist visas cancelled and banned from further visits to Sri Lanka.

The report broadcast on 5 May showed both the atrocious living conditions for civilians and ill treatment they have suffered. ITN News, which produces news for Channel 4, said the report was the first independent proof of the gravity of the plight of civilians in displacement camps in an area in which access is tightly controlled. It showed bodies left lying in the open and revealed a shortage of food and water and cases of sexual abuse.

The expulsions are the latest incident in a long list of serious press freedom violations connected with reporting of the war, including murders of journalists, arbitrary or abusive imprisonment, torture, ill-treatment, censorship and expulsions.

If all this is true, it is a sad time for journalists in Sri Lanka. The only hope is that the government there will sooner than later see the futility of this exercise and acknowledge the important part the media plays in the robust health of a nation.

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