A South Indian TV crew was prevented from reporting on the visit of the Indian delegation after their equipment was impounded by the Customs shortly after arriving at the Bandaranaike International Airport on Tuesday.
The four-member crew from the Chennai-based ‘Sun TV’ was told they would not be allowed to cover the visit of the Indian delegation since they were anti-Sri Lanka and therefore a security threat to the country.
SUN TV Chief Editor Raja Vasudevan told the Sunday Times on the telephone that all this happened despite having prior clearance from the Sri Lankan authorities, including the media ministry.
He said the crew had even landed in Colombo on journalist visas. “Our crew was told by the authorities in Colombo that SUN TV was anti-Sri Lanka and had even gone to the extent of providing live coverage of the recent assault of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s close relative Thirikumar Nadesan during a visit to a Hindu shrine in January this year,” Mr. Vasudevan said.
He said SUN TV, which is owned by the grandson of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, had made several earlier visits to Sri Lanka but had never faced a similar situation. “This incident is most disturbing and unfortunate and should never have happened,” he said.
Mr. Karunanidhi is clashing head on with the Sri Lankan Government after he renewed his call for a UN-sponsored referendum to decide whether there should be a separate Tamil state in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
His remarks drew a response from Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who suggested that the former chief minister should concentrate on seeking a separate Tamil state in Tamil Nadu, because the Tamil population was much larger than in Sri Lanka.
Media Ministry Secretary, W. B. Ganegala said prior clearance had been given to the SUN TV crew but did not elaborate. Lakshman Hulugalle, Director General for the Media Centre for National Security, refused to comment on the issue and told us to check with the Department of Information.