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News


RSF condemns government’s ‘preventive censorship’ moves

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders organisation yesterday condemned moves to prevent the media obtaining information following violent clashes in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, which inflicted heavy casualties to both sides.

The media watchdog charged that the government was trying to win the news war by doing the utmost to keep journalists away from combat zones and medical facilities and that it was also trying to influence the editorial stance of both local and national newspapers.

“The clashes and the evident losses have pushed the military authorities into establishing ‘preventive censorship,’ such as preventing photographers and reporters from reaching hospitals and morgues to establish the death toll,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“The contradictory statements by those involved and constant pressure from the government, which only wants to see the most patriotic articles, shows the urgent need for independent coverage of events currently shaking the region,” it added.

On April 24, soldiers prevented photographers from entering a Colombo hospital in which wounded soldiers were being treated.

The media watchdog said that in one of the most violent engagements in the Jaffna peninsula in recent years, security forces battled LTTE fighters, leaving losses apparently much heavier than those reported by either side. Each side claimed to have killed around 100 troops.

While the Defence Ministry said on the day of the battle that 43 soldiers had been killed and that 33 others were missing, unofficial military sources said the Army had lost 185 men and that 20 were missing.

The Army also claimed to have killed more than 3,000 LTTE fighters since the start of 2008, which corresponds to the figure for the total Tiger force provided by the military command six months earlier.

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