Sri Lanka govt muzzled media during EU visit: rights group

June 13, 2008 (LBO) – The Sri Lankan government pressured independent newspapers not to publish critical stories during a visit by a European Union delegation to the island earlier this week, a media rights group said. The statement said that journalists working for several newspapers told Reporters Without Borders on condition of anonymity that during the week prior to the EU visit, their managers and editors ordered them to limit the number of stories that would be embarrassing for the government.

“The officials who pressured their management had threatened reprisals, including economic reprisals, they said,” the statement said.

“This harassment coincided with defence ministry accusations of ‘treason’ against journalists who cover military affairs, and the abduction and beating of one of The Nation’s defence reporters in Colombo.”

During their talks with the government which is trying to renew EU trade concessions, the EU delegation raised concerns about alleged human rights violations by government forces, including attacks on journalists.

“The government is mistaken if it thinks in can improve relations with the EU by using threats to silence the independent press,” the press freedom organ