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Sri Lankan media ban ‘a disgrace’: rights group

[AFP, Saturday, 11 April 2009 21:36 No Comment]

capt.photo_1239452601812-1-0 An international rights group Saturday urged Sri Lanka to allow journalists access to the war zone in the northeast where a "humanitarian crisis is unfolding" without a media presence.


"It is a disgrace that this war is being waged without independent journalists present," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said.


"With a major humanitarian crisis and war crimes clearly taking place, the government must heed the international community?s calls for a ceasefire and for better access for humanitarian workers and journalists."


The United Nations estimates around 100,000 people trapped along Sri Lanka’s northeastern shoreline are at risk from intense fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels.


Security forces have now hemmed the Tigers into a narrow strip of coastal jungle where they have retreated together with the civilians.


The authorities have severely restricted access into the war zone for journalists and humanitarian agencies.

"By limiting media coverage to guided tours with the purpose of confirming military victories, the armed forces are preventing the press from doing its job," RSF said in a statement.


"They are disregarding the public?s right to be informed in an independent manner," it said.


Rights groups regard Sri Lanka as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

In January, the government said nine journalists had been killed and another 27 assaulted over the past three years, while independent activists say more than a dozen journalists have been killed.


A newspaper editor critical of the government’s military campaign was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in January. Several others have been arrested using draconian anti-terrorism laws.

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