For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Sri Lanka authorities have detained the latest edition of The Economist magazine, its distributor in Colombo said.
“We were not allowed to clear our copies of the Economist on Friday by the customs officials,” Vijitha Yapa told BBC Sandeshaya.
The magazine has carried an article on Sri Lanka’s recovery after the decades of war titled “Rebuilding, but at a cost.”
“All what I know is that there is a news item in this copy on Sri Lanka; therefore it is detained,” Mr. Yapa added.
It is not the first time Sri Lanka authorities have detained the copies of the London publication.
Earlier, the Economist was confiscated by customs authorities in Sri Lanka when it published a piece on funds allocated through NGOs for projects in Sri Lanka.
Losing tax revenue
Lakshman Hulugalle, Director General of the Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) has told Sunday Times that if foreign publications are “harmful to national security”, they would be disallowed in Sri Lanka.
The authorities say that land will be dished out through open tenders. But local leaders fear plots will instead be handed to henchmen of the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, most of whom come from the Sinhala-dominated south. Demands for preferential treatment for the inhabitants of Trincomalee, whether Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim, may fall on deaf ears.
The article in The Economist repotedly have refered to the manner in which land has been distributed in the east for tourism development and to build plush hotels.
It also quotes a soldier who complains that he is “forced to salute the likes of Vinyagamoorthy Muralithran, a former LTTE leader who is now the deputy minister of resettlement, whereas “war heroes” like the former army commander Sarath Fonseka, languish in jail”.
Mr. Yapa said the government loses a considerable amount of tax revenue as a result of continuous detention of foreign publications by the authorities.
“And The Economist is a world renowned magazine that covers not only Sri Lanka but also many other countries. Business community and the tourists are among the major buyers of the magazine and we also distribute it to airlines and to the hotel industry,” he added.
There is no official censorship in Sri Lanka but media watchdogs and human rights groups say the climate of fear still prevails among the media workers despite constant denials of the authorities.