Sri Lanka deports Channel 4 journalists after report

ITN has demanded an explanation from the Sri Lankan government after a Channel 4 News team in the country were arrested at the weekend and deported.

Asia correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh, cameraman Matt Jasper and producer Bessie Du were reporting allegations of abuse and ill treatment of Tamils held in internment camps.

They were arrested on charges of tarnishing the image of government security forces and ordered to leave the country by the Sri Lankan defence minister.

The head of Sri Lanka’s government information centre, Lakshaman Hulugalle, said the trio had admitted they had “done something wrong” and would not be allowed to go back to Sri Lanka.

But Paton-Walsh, who was speaking from Singapore after being deported, denied giving a statement to police or admitting any wrongdoing. He said: “This is complete rubbish.”

A spokesman for ITN, which produces Channel 4 News, said: “We will be seeking an explanation from the Sri Lankan government for this decision.”

According to ITN, the original Channel 4 report, broadcast on 5 May, contained the first independently filmed video from one of the displacement camps.

It contained claims that dead bodies were left where they fell and allegations of sexual abuse, along with food and water shortages. The Sri Lankan government denied the allegations.

The Foreign Office criticised Sri Lanka’s decision to deport the journalists.

A spokeswoman said: “This is a deeply disappointing decision when the case for more transparency, not less, is overwhelming.”

According to Amnesty International, at least 14 local journalists and Sri Lankans working for media organisations have been killed since the beginning of 2006.

Others have been detained, tortured or have disappeared. Amnesty said 20 more have fled the country because of death threats.

An estimated 500,000 civilians are caught up in fighting as government troops oust rebels from their strongholds across the north.

They say they have cornered the Tamil Tigers in a sliver of land just 2.4 miles long on the North Eastern coast.

The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for a separate state for minority Tamils, who have suffered decades of marginalisation at the hands of governments controlled by the Sinhalese majority

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