Sri Lankan independent media slams budget photo ‘censorship’

Nov 07, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lankan media groups Wednesday condemned government restrictions on private media covering the 2008 budget speech by President Mahinda Rajapakse in parliament. The Free Media Movement, speaking on behalf of several media groups, said in a statement that it was deeply concerned and condemned the ban on photo journalists covering the speech.

“Although all media institutions were invited to cover the event, it is regrettable that only photojournalists from state-controlled media were allowed to cover the event.”

In a protest against what they called the arbitrary censorship, all photo journalists boycotted the traditional tea party which followed the presentation of the budget.

“We note that this is the first time non-state photo journalists were not allowed to cover the budget speech,” the FMM statement said.

“Our organizations consider this an act of clear censorship, a telling disregard for plural opinion in the media, a blow to independent journalism and an act that grossly discriminates against non-state media.”

It said the move appeared to be part of larger effort to control media in Sri Lanka by overt censorship based on the “whim and fancy” of those in power.

“This is in effect the totalitarian control of media that stifles independent journalism and the freedom of expression.”

The media groups demanded the government allow all private media to cover all events that state media is privy to, without fear of censorship or discrimination.

They also demanded an inquiry to find out who was responsible for Wednesday’s censorship in parliament. .