Sri Lanka clamps down on war reports after battle losses

April 25, 2008 (AFP) – Sri Lankan authorities have extended “unofficial” censorship to hospitals and funeral parlours as losses mount after a major battle against Tamil rebels, a media rights group said Friday. The Free Media Movement (FMM) said the authorities had prevented photographers taking pictures of military casualties brought to hospitals following heavy fighting in the northern peninsula of Jaffna on Wednesday.

Funeral undertakers also blocked photographers and reporters as soldiers provided tight security.

“It is highly likely that these measures have been taken after heavy losses faced by the Sri Lankan army earlier this week after fighting intensified in the North,” the FMM said in a statement.

The group said it was urging the government as well as the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to respect the right to information.

“The FMM believes that the right of the public to know information and news relating to the ongoing war is severely undermined by the restrictions placed on journalists.”

It said only foreign wire services and a few news websites operating from Colombo reported battle front casualties independent of government military press releases.