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Associated Press correspondent forced to leave Sri Lanka for coverage of real war toll

AP correspondent forced to leave Sri Lanka for coverage of real war toll
A Tamil woman sits on the ground in the Manik Farm refugee camp located on the outskirts of northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya May 26, 2009.

The Sri Lankan government has refused to renew the press visa of the Associated Press (AP) bureau chief in the country, Ravi Nessman. Nessman, an American national who has been based in Sri Lanka since 2007, was forced to leave the country on July 20 after his visa was not renewed.

Advisor to the head of state, Lucien Rajakarunanayake, said the refusal was because foreign correspondents were not allowed to stay in the country for more than two years, but one international media correspondent said he had never heard of this “rule”. A spokesman at the American news agency called the decision “very disturbing”

Nessman had a bylined exclusive on a UN internal report drawing attention to the real toll of civilian victims of the conflict in the north and east of the country that ended when the Sri Lankan army defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009. The report seriously implicated top UN and government officials.

“News agencies have been some of the few media that managed to cover the bloody conflict in Sri Lanka independently. Now journalists are being unfairly punished for having written these reports,” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said. “After attacking human rights activists and doctors, the government is now taking it out on foreign journalists who reported on the suffering of the people. It’s extremely unfortunate,” the organisation added.

"By refusing to renew the visa of an international news agency bureau chief the government is signaling to foreign journalists that it does not want independent reporting," said Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. "This is part of a disturbing pattern of harassment and censorship of all journalists in Sri Lanka which has continued despite the end of the civil war."

RSF has obtained information that eight foreign reporters or contributors to international media have been forced to leave the country because of threats from the authorities or their supporters since January 1, 2009. At least 30 Sri Lankan journalists have fled their country since the start of 2008.

Date posted: July 22, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 246