Sri Lanka clamps restrictions on post-Tsunami coverage

[TamilNet, Thursday, 17 March 2005, 11:09 GMT]
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka’s media watchdog, Thursday slammed the Government of Sri Lanka for imposing unacceptable restrictions on foreign journalists covering post-tsunami rebuilding and recovery efforts in the island. In a statement issued Thursday FMM said a Canadian TV journalist has been asked by the Sri Lankan embassy in Ottawa to sign a letter of agreement accepting the restrictions as a condition for issuing him a visa. FMM said that conditions such as these “did not exist even during most of the period of armed conflict in Sri Lanka”.

The following is the full text of the FMM media release Thursday:

“The Free Media Movement (FMM) has received a letter from Canadian journalist Steve Schmit of Global TV Canada regarding an unacceptable practice of the High Commission of the Republic of Sri Lanka in Ottawa, Canada.

“Mr. Steve Schmit is a producer of Global TV, Toronto, Canada.

“In his letter, Mr. Steve Schmit states that he planned to produce a documentary on post-tsunami rebuilding and recovery efforts in Sri Lanka. He was asked by the High Commission to provide a ‘letter of agreement’ as a Sri Lankan visa condition.

“He was asked to include the following stipulations in the letter of agreement: - All film footage/video footage recorded in Sri Lanka will be submitted for preview and clearance by the National Film Corporation/Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation respectively, prior to the crew leaving Sri Lanka

- The final edited version of the programme will be submitted to the Embassy/High Commission in Canada a week prior to broadcast and any objections raised by the Sri Lankan Embassy/High Commission will be suitably accommodated and/or a right of reply will be given to the Embassy/High Commission, in the same programme, in the event that they find any matter to be broadcast objectionable and affecting the national interest of Sri Lanka.

“The agreement also requires Global TV to name a company or agency that acts as our sponsor and who are liable if we breach the rules set forth in the agreement.

“These conditions are clearly against universally accepted norms and practices of democratic freedom, and violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to freely access public information.

“Moreover, these conditions adversely affect the transparency and accountability of post tsunami reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts by precluding scrutiny by the media.

“FMM considers it extraordinary and unacceptable that conditions such as these that did not exist even during most of the period of armed conflict in Sri Lanka, are now being applied to coverage of post tsunami recovery.

“FMM is appalled by this development and urges the government and the Foreign Ministry in particular, to enquire into this matter with a view to taking remedial steps as soon as possible.

 

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