Sri Lanka media crisis takes international twist

April 19, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s top defence official summoned Britain’s envoy Thursday after he expressed solidarity with an editor facing death threats, diplomats said. Although there is no formal censorship imposed, Sri Lankan authorities prevent journalists from travelling to areas held by the rebels, who are waging a separatist conflict that has killed more than 60,000 people since 1972. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse “invited” British high commissioner (ambassador) Dominick Chilcott to his tightly-guarded office at short notice Thursday, a high commission spokesman said.

“They talked about the role of the media,” the spokesman said. “The high commissioner and the defence secretary agreed that the confidentiality of the meeting would be preserved.”

The summons came after Chilcott visited the editor of Colombo’s Daily Mirror, Champika Liyanaarachchi Wednesday, a day after she said she received a death threat from Rajapakse.

Chilcott’s unexpected visit was seen by diplomats as a signal of Britain’s deep concern over recent attacks against the freedom of expression in this former British colony.

His gesture of support came hours after the Sri L