Sri Lanka escorts British journalist Jeremy Page to detention
Sri Lanka exercises extensive force to keep media away from the current war on Tamils regions. It has arrested, kidnapped and tortured many journalists to keep a lid on what is going on the Tamils regions; 14 journalists have also been killed by the Sri Lankan Government.
Committee to Protect Journalists has said:
The lack of credible investigations into these crimes is in keeping with a long history of impunity for those who attack journalists in Sri Lanka. With a failure to investigate and a realistic suspicion that government actors are complicit in the violence against journalists, the time has come for the international community to act.
Reporters without Borders has said:
According to the findings of the International Mission, reporters and editors conveying messages that are critical of the government’s war against the LTTE are labeled as "traitors" and "terrorists" where they work in an increasingly hostile environment of censorship and fear.
Last week, Jeremy Page, a reporter from The Times UK was arrested at the International air port of Sri Lanka, held in detention overnight and deported to UK the next morning.
How I was barred from reporting Tamil Tiger conflict
The Sri Lankan immigration officer’s eyes narrowed as soon as she swiped my passport at Colombo’s international airport last week.
“Come this way,” she said, leading me into a side room, where a colleague typed my details into a computer. A message flashed up on his screen: “DO NOT ALLOW TO ENTER THE COUNTRY”.
With that, my passport was confiscated, I was escorted to an airport detention room, locked up for the night, and deported the next day.
Jeremy Page has been reporting both sides of the conflict criticizing both the government and the LTTE for the current war in Sri Lanka.
This is what journalists do in a democracy – and even in more authoritarian states.
I regularly interview members of the Taleban in Afghanistan. In Russia, I reported on both sides of the Chechen conflict. In China, I interviewed dissidents and Tibetan independence activists.
To do the equivalent in Sri Lanka, however, is not only forbidden: it is highly dangerous if you are a local reporter.
The last time I visited (on a tourist visa after another failed application for a journalist’s one), it was to write about Lasantha Wickrematunge, a Sri Lankan newspaper editor who was murdered in January.
He left behind a partly-written obituary in which he accused the Government of assassinating him because of his criticism of the war.
The Government denies this, but has yet to catch those who murdered him – or the 14 other media workers killed in Sri Lanka since 2006.
Another story that annoyed the Government was about its plan to keep all Tamils fleeing the fighting in camps run by the army and ringed by barbed wire for up to three years.
I sought reaction – as any reporter should – from representatives of the Tamil community (and one MEP with an interest in Sri Lanka), several of whom likened the plans to concentration camps.
The Government responded by denouncing me personally at a news conference (although it later toned down its plans following protests from the UN).
But the most surreal response came in a letter from Rajiva Wijesinha, the head of the Government’s Peace Secretariat, who accused me of sensationalizing the use of barbed wire in the camps.
“Unfortunately, a man from a cold climate does not realize that, in the sub-continent, barbed wire is the most common material to establish secure boundaries, to permit ventilation as well as views," he wrote.