accreditation. As is customary, the Commonwealth Secretariat is the final authority for all international media accreditation for CHOGM. The accreditation process will be carried out in collaboration with the host countryauthorities, who are responsible for processing and approving visaapplications by accredited media. Media accreditation is open to all bona fide journalists, including onlinemedia practitioners, broadcasters, photographers, film and televisioncamera crews and technicians. Every effort will be made to facilitateattendance and coverage of CHOGM by the media.
Emphasis theirs. There are however real and growing fears of open and covertcensorship before, during and after CHOGM by the Sri Lankan government. On 10July, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) penned an open letter to theSecretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma. The letter remindedSharma of an interview, late June, in which he said that the Commonwealth is active inSri Lanka in advancing Commonwealth values, including human rights and the media.CPJ’s letter clearly outlined the reality in Sri Lanka,
But press reports from Colombo have indicated that the Sri Lankangovernment intends to enforce stringent background checks on any foreign journalists covering the meeting, with the apparent intention of denying them permission to enter the country. A document recentlyreleased by the Sri Lankan government said that the authorities reservethe right to “exclude any person… and impose additional conditions of entry to Sri Lanka… regardless of whether or not that person isaccredited.” Journalists will be issued accreditation by a task force, which is adivision of the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs. The ministryhas stated that credentials may be “withdrawn, suspended, ordeactivated for any reason at any time.”
In fact, the Defence Secretary, recently identified social media such as Facebook and Twitter as a serious threat to national security and plansare afoot, according to reliable sources to ban social media as well as tointroduce the draconian code of ethics for the media, recently approved by Cabinet, after the summit in November.
It is in this context that the tweets of Consul General Bandula Jayasekara over thecourse of just a single day must be read. There is to our knowledge no governancearound the use of social media by Sri Lanka’s foreign service, and Jayasekara’s Twitteraccount conveniently conflates personal opinion with official positions. On Thursday,10th July alone, Jayasekara went after and included in his abominable invective journalists Callum Macrae,Frances Harrison, UK MP Alistair Burt, theCommittee to
Protect Journalists, theEditor of the Colombo Telegraph website and Senior TNA
MPR. Sampanthan.Jayasekara’s tweets and retweets over the course of Thursday alone featured the