FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

Sri Lanka denies visas to Al Jazeera, as reported by TDN previously.

November 12, 2010 2 Comments

Nov 12, 2010, 12:16 GMT

Colombo – Sri Lanka has denied visas to at least three staff members of Al-Jazeera television, after the station broadcast images of bodies and execution-style killings, said to have occurred during the final weeks the civil war against Tamil rebels last year.

An External Affairs Ministry spokesman said Friday that a decision had been taken not to issue the visas for the crew who wanted cover the swearing-in of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a second term on November 19 and also visit the Tamil region in the north, where the fighting took place.

The disturbing photos broadcast by the Qatar-based TV station Thursday show bodies piled up in the rear of a tractor and blindfolded bodies with their hands tied behind their backs.

The spokesman denied the military was responsible for the killings, claiming that it appeared to be a collection of pictures which had been already dismissed as a fabrication.

‘The government on previous occasions has denied these pictures. It is improper to suggested that the military was involved in these killings,’ he said.

Al-Jazeera said it was unable to verify the authenticity of the pictures and also that it was unknown if the bodies had been collected after a clean-up or were the result of a massacre.

Similar footage has emerged in the past and at least in one case, the UN human rights envoy concluded it was authentic.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon set up a panel to advise him on the accountability of the Sri Lankan government in the final stages of the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The UN estimated that as many as 6,500 civilians were killed in the last months of the conflict, a figure denied by the Sri Lankan government.

From Daily Mirror:

The Government rejected the visa applications of the news crew of the international news network Al-Jazeera attempting to enter the country. The Foreign Ministry confirmed that the visa applications of the news crew were rejected but declined to give reasons.

Public communications Director General and Foreign Ministry spokesman Bandula Jayasekera told Daily Mirror that the government had rejected the visa applications of the news crew but declined to give reasons for the visa denial.

On Wednesday Al-Jazeera telecast photographs showing piles of bodies of those allegedly executed during the final stages of the war in the North.

The government rejected these photographs with Media Minister Keheliya Rabukwella saying the images were nothing new but a repeat telecast of the channel-4 video footage.

The government has questioned the authenticity of these photographs obtained from a number of unverified sources, depicting war crimes and torture during the final stages of the war. The government claimed that hese were malicious attempts to discredit the victory of the Sri Lankan forces. (DS)
http://www.tamildaily.net/2010/11/12/sri-lanka-denies-visas-to-al-jazeera-as-reported-by-tdn-previously-j/

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