BBC programmes censored

Place: Sri Lanka | Courtesy: IFEX
| Date: 20000512

In a 12 May 2000 letter to the post, telecommunications and media minister, Mangala Samaraweera, RSF protested the censoring of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programmes by state-owned radio and television stations. The measure follows a government decision to impose new restrictions on press freedom and particularly to extend censorship to news put out by foreign correspondents and international news agencies.

RSF considers this decision to be a "serious violation of press freedom which denies Sri Lankans the right to independent information". RSF asked the minister to lift the censorship of BBC programmes immediately, condemned "all the pressure on the media" and recalled that "censorship is in contradiction with the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, ratified by the Sri Lankan government, which guarantees freedom of expression".

According to information collected by RSF, executives of the state-run Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) took the Sinhala and Tamil news programmes of the BBC World Service, relayed by SLBC radio, off the air on 11 May. They were replaced by music programmes. On the same day, BBC and CNN reports about Sri Lanka broadcast during the news programme of the SLBC's Channel One were blocked by the word "Censored". BBC programmes deal fully and freely with the fighting near Jaffna, where Tamil separatists may be gaining an advantage. According to SLBC Chairman Janadasa Peiris, implementing recent measures concerning the broadcasting of "military news" is more important than respecting the company's contract with the BBC. He recalled that the measure was a temporary response to government instructions, particularly from the censor and information director, Ariya Rubasinghe. The authorities announced that the censorship was also applicable to news published on the Internet.