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article imageSri Lankan government grants BBC access to commission hearings Special

By Andrew Moran     Nov 15, 2010 in World
Colombo - After being stopped by the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry from entering the northern part of the country to interview Tamil civilians, the Office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa has informed the BBC they will be allowed to attend war commission hearings.
The Sri Lankan government has been accused of attempting to suppress international media outlets from reporting on the affairs of the nation. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 24 journalists have been killed in Sri Lanka; 56 percent of those dead were murdered.
On Wednesday, according to Sify News, the Sri Lankan Defence Ministry barred BBC reporters from covering the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) proceedings in Jaffna. BBC media personnel were not specified a reason for their denied entry.
Furthermore, the BBC crew was stopped twice when it tried to travel to the northern part of Sri Lanka in order to report on the testimonies of the Tamil civilians. Generally, displacement camps in the north have remained off-limits for media.
On Saturday, the government of Sri Lanka had a change of heart and decided to reverse their decision. The BBC News reported that the Office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa informed the media outlet that they were allowed to covering the war commission hearings.
Dev Fakruddin, a Toronto Tamil activist, remains pessimistic of the news coverage. Fakruddin explained to Digital Journal in an e-mail that the Sri Lankan government would most likely attempt to skew the coverage and force the BBC to edit certain events that transpire during the proceedings.
“Anyone who knows President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government know that the government doesn’t do anything out of the goodness of their heart,” said Fakruddin. “Until the proceedings have been fully covered by the BBC, then I won’t be optimistic getting the word now.”
Fakruddin added that he hopes several other media outlets will be allowed to cover the hearings, especially alternative media organizations: “If alternative, independent media outlets go to northern Sri Lanka and cover the events, only then can we truly get the proper coverage.”
The 57-year-old activist said in jest: “Maybe Digital Journal can cover the hearing.”
However, it is still unclear if other media outlets will be allowed to report on the proceedings. The commission’s hearings will still be held in the north.
Ahilan, also a Toronto Tamil activist, told Digital Journal in a brief e-mail exchange that he is thankful that the Canadian government isn’t as isolated and protectionist as the Sri Lankan government.
“Once the government bans the media from covering a public event, then one must be suspicious of what is actually transpiring,” said Ahilan. “I hope members of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam will be at the proceedings and give us honest accounts of what is going on.”
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