FMM expresses its concern government’s attempt to bar foreign media from covering provincial council elections in the Eastern province which is scheduled for 10th May 2008.
Military authorities turned back journalist Ravi Nesman and photographer Gamunu Amarasinghe of AP insisting that they need a special permission to cover the election in East. Associated Press reporter Ravi Nesman and photographer photographer Gamunu Amarasinghe were stopped at a checkpoint in the eastern town of Valaichchenai and ordered to leave the province and head straight back to the capital, Colombo. Apparently all check points on the main road was informed of the incident and license plate number of the car they were traveling. On their way back they were warned at every check point not to take any by roads. FMM views this action by military officials as nothing but rude intimidation.
Maj. Gen. Palitha Fernando, a senior official in the Ministry of Defense (MOD) told the journalists that foreign media needs a special permission to cover the elections although no government authority provided information on the new restriction and how to obtain permission to cover the election.
MOD later reversed its decision after journalist’s rights groups and election monitoring organizations raised the issue with authorities protesting the arbitrary decision of MOD officials. General Fernando later said there was a misunderstanding, journalists would be allowed to cover the election, and the reporters were allowed to return to the east.
Discouraging media from covering the Eastern Province election is a direct impingement people’s right to information and this incident shows how easily this fundamental right is violated in Sri Lanka today in the name of national security.
FMM calls for an investigation as to why there was an attempt to bar foreign media away from this very crucial election. Insisting that whoever responsible for this anti media decision should be made public FMM requests all government authorities to extend fullest cooperation to journalists and media covering the PC election on 10th May 2008.