Sri Lanka slammed by media watchdog over polls media blackout

August 6, 2009 (AFP) – Global press freedom group Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage Thursday over Sri Lanka’s ban on independent media covering local polls just outside the island’s former war zone. The government claimed victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels in May after killing the top leadership of the separatist movement which had been fighting since 1972.

However, journalists and aid workers are still not allowed free access to the former rebel-held areas or to some 300,000 civilians who escaped the fighting, but are now held in state-run camps.

“The government continues to violate press freedom while journalists are attacked with complete impunity, and both local and foreign newspapers are often censored,” Reporters Without Borders said. The organisation said Sri Lanka’s decision to allow only journalists from state-run media into the cities of Jaffna and Vavuniya, both near the Wanni region which was wrested from Tamil rebel control in May, was wrong.

“It is unacceptable that the government should impose such a ban (on independent journalists) on nothing more than the vaguest security grounds,” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in an emailed statement.

“As well