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Sri Lanka, 'Impossible Journalism' and Channel 4 News

Sri Lanka, 'Impossible Journalism' and Channel 4 News

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11/18/2013

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Sri Lanka, 'impossible journalism' and Channel 4 News

S U N DAY 17 NOVEMBER 2013 As the controversial C O!M in Sri "an#a co$es to an en%& Channel ' Ne(s E%itor Ben %e )ear reveals (h* he is +,llin- his tea$ o,t o. the co,ntr* in the .ace o. inti$i%ation/ Channel 4 News Editor, Ben de Pear (@bendepear) writes: 0o%a*& Sri "an#a1s )resi%ent Mahin%a Ra2a+a#sa close% (hat has 3een a controversial C O!M s,$$it/ 0he .inal co$$,ni4,e avoi%e% an* $ention o. h,$an ri-hts 5 one o. the central +rinci+les o. the Co$$on(ealth 5 instea% a-reein- to coo+erate on a n,$3er o. iss,es& incl,%in- +overt* re%,ction& tra%e an% *o,th a..airs/ 0oni-ht there (ill 3e no re+ort .ro$ Channel ' Ne(s on this i$+ortant s,$$it .ro$ Colo$3o& as %es+ite havin- 3een invite% to Sri "an#a& -rante% visas an% even accre%ite% .or the event& a.ter a %i..ic,lt (ee# it 3eca$e i$+ossi3le .or Channel ' Ne(s to o+erate as 2o,rnalists in the co,nt*/ On arrival si6 %a*s a-o (e (ere -reete% at the air+ort an% o,r hotel 3* or-anise% an% controlle% +rotests7 (ith 3anners an% chants acc,sin- ,s o.

l*in- an% s,++ortin- the "00E5 the .or$er 0a$il 0i-ers (ho .o,-ht the -overn$ent .or 28 *ears/ A.ter 3ein- invite% to visit an* +art o. the co,ntr* 5 as (ere all C O!M 2o,rnalists +,3licl* 3* the +resi%ent 5 (hen (e too# a train to the north o. the co,ntr*& even the train (as $et an% sto++e% 3* another or-anise% +rotest/ 9orce% 3ac# to Colo$3o :e (ere then .orce% into a van 3* +olice an% %riven 3ac# to Colo$3o/ M,ch o. the Sri "an#an +ress& (hich has to toe the -overn$ent line5 an% all o. the$ have to in so$e %e-ree in a co,ntr* ran#e% 182n% o,t o. 17; .or +ress .ree%o$ 3* the Co$$ittee to )rotect <o,rnalists& has re+orte% o,r ever* $ove as .ront +a-e ne(s/ Stran-el* the*1ve #no(n (here (e are -oin- $ost o. the ti$e even (hen (e haven1t tol% the$/ =n +,3lic altho,-h the +resi%ent has invite% ,s .or tea >an invitation re+eate% +,3licl* 3* other +,3lic o..icials? it is clear a.ter e6ha,stive .ollo(5 ,+ +hone calls this is not a -en,ine invitation/ 0he -overn$ent has trie% to e6cl,%e ,s .ro$ C O!M +ress con.erences an% (ere it not .or a .e( ro3,st an% #e* o..icials %oin- their 2o3s (e (o,l% have 3een +revente% .ro$ as#in- 4,estions o. the .i-,res lea%in- this s,$$it/ Cho-$ an% the co$$on(ealth1s three #e* the$es re$e$3er are %e$ocrac*& o+en -overn$ent& an% the r,le o. la(/ Monitore% 3* sec,rit* services :e have 3een .ollo(e% ever*(here 3* +eo+le (e are relia3l* in.or$e% are intelli-ence& on .oot& $otor3i#e& $otor ric#sha( an% in $ostl*& .or so$e

,ni.or$ reason& silver hatch3ac# cars/ O,r +hones an% la+to+s have 3een $onitore%& o,r hotel (as ,n%er instr,ctions to tell the a,thorities ever* ti$e (e le.t& an% it has 3een $a%e clear to ,s 3* those (ho have 3ravel* (ante% to $eet that $an* o. the$ are then s+o#en to the$selves/ :e (ere taile% 3* ,+ to .o,r vehicles& an% (hen (e sto++e% to .il$ the scene o. a 0a$il 0i-er terror attac# in 1@@8& o,r cre( ha% roc#s h,rle% at the$ 3* +eo+le (e 3elieve to 3e $e$3ers o. the sec,rit* services/ D,rin- the a.ternoon (e receive% a n,$3er o. (arnin- +hone calls .ro$ insi%e an% o,tsi%e Sri "an#a that the sit,ation (as hi-hl* %an-ero,s .or ,s/ 9inall* this $ornin- at 8/20a$ at least si6 3,rl* $en #noc#e% on $* hotel %oor/ =t (as an inti$i%atin- e6+erience/ )eo+le o.ten -et visits in this co,ntr* an% are 3,n%le% o.. in (hite vans never to 3e seen a-ain/ :hilst = realise (e have a lar-e %e-ree o. +rotection as .orei-ners = have hear% eno,-h .ro$ a .e( (ho have s,rvive% these visits an% the relatives o. those (ho never co$e 3ac#/ :hen = event,all* let the$ in the* i%enti.ie% the$selves as 3ein- .ro$ i$$i-ration +olice/ 0hreats o. inti$i%ation 0he* tol% $e (e ha% 3ro#en the ter$s o. o,r visa 3* Aatte$+tin- to enter the +resi%ent1s +alaceA& an% that o,r visa re4,ire% that (e onl* visit an% .il$ Cho-$& tho,-h this is %irectl* contra%icte% 3* the ter$s an% con%itions o. the accre%itation an% the re+eate% state$ents o. the +resi%ent/ 0he* tol% $e (e co,l% no( onl* visit C O!M ven,es& an% that (e (ere not allo(e% to .il$ or -o an*(here else/ 9or the recor%& (e %i% not atte$+t to snea# into )resi%ent Ra2a+a#sa1s

resi%ence/ :e %i%n1t .eel ver* co,ra-eo,s leavin- earl* co$+are% to the $an* 3rave +eo+le (e have s+o#en to an% intervie(e%/ 0he* atte$+t to live in Sri "an#a 3* the stan%ar%s the Cho-$ s,$$it s,++ose%l* re+resents/ B,t (e (ant to avoi% those +eo+le an% the $an* others (ho (ant to tal# a3o,t the horrors o. the +ast an% the re+ression o. the +resent en%in- ,+ .acin- arrest& %etention an% +erha+s (orse 3* their association (ith ,s/ :e (ill atte$+t to trac# all o. the +eo+le (e s+o#e to an% $onitor (hat ha++ens to the$/ Sri "an#a is a 3ea,ti.,l co,ntr*& (ith (on%er.,l +eo+le/ "ie% to 3* the Sri "an#an -overn$ent B,t it is a tra,$atise% nation a.ter 28 *ears o. (ar/ 0he r,thless terror ca$+ai-n o. the 0a$il 0i-ers $a%e Colo$3o a cit* o. .ear& (here +arents %are% not sen% chil%ren to school an% ever*(here an% ever*one (as a tar-et .or the 0i-er s,ici%e 3o$3ers/ :e have .ace% the an-er an% the tears o. those +eo+le& $an* o. (ho$ lost love% ones& (ho (ere tol% 3* the -overn$ent the lie that (e s,++orte% an% (ere .,n%e% 3* the "00E/ None o. the +rotestors (e en-a-e% (ith ha% seen o,r covera-e& or Call,$ Macrae1s .il$s& 3,t the* have 3een s,32ecte% to a relentless ca$+ai-n on 3ehal. o. the Sri "an#an -overn$ent .or *ears to %iscre%it o,r 2o,rnalis$/ Criticis$ is .ine in an o+en an% .ree societ*& 3,t there have 3een +eo+le arreste% an% %etaine% .or havin- DVDs o. Channel '1s Sri "an#a .il$s/ "i#e(ise the north is tra,$atise% 3* the (ar& +artic,larl* 3* its en%in-& an% the .e( short (ee#s in (hich tens o. tho,san%s o. +eo+le %ie%& an%

-rievo,s (ar cri$es too# +lace/ 0hat the (ar en%e% is a -oo% thin-/ 0he $anner o. its en%in- has 3een the .oc,s o. $,ch o. o,r an% Channel '1s 2o,rnalis$ an% the serio,s 4,estions raise% 3* the .il$s in +artic,lar are still ,nans(ere%/ 0he +eo+le (ho so e..ectivel* e6ec,te% the annihiliation o. the 0a$il 0i-ers an% $an* tens o. tho,san%s aro,n% the$ still r,n the co,ntr* on a (ar .ootin-/

No( the ene$* is civil societ*& 2o,rnalists& the o++osition/ B,t (e leave heartene%/ Ever*(here (e (ent& as s,3tl* 3,t as stron-l* as the* co,l%& Sri "an#ans7 Sinhalese& 0a$il an% M,sli$ ti++e% ,s the (in#& -ave ,s a th,$3s ,+& (his+ere% a than# *o,/ Sri "an#an 2o,rnalist collea-,es tol% ,s o. their 2ealo,s* o. o,r .ree%o$ to tell the stories the* #no( are tr,e/ )olice an% sec,rit* +ersonnel la,-he% (ith ,s at the a3s,r%it* o. o,r treat$ent an% the or%ers the* $,st .ollo(/ Sri "an#ans are no .ools7 the (ar is over/ No( -ive the$ +eace/

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