The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China condemns the Sri Lankan government for detaining and deporting three of our members.
Bessie Du, Matt Jasper and Nick Paton Walsh of Channel 4 were covering the conflict on the island, when they were ordered to leave as a result of a report they had filed several days earlier about conditions inside the government’s internment camps.
According to Paton Walsh’s blog, they were stopped at a road block near Trincomalee and taken to a police station, where an officer typed out a statement they had not given and refused to sign.
They were then escorted back to Colombo by six soldiers, including two with rifles. Du said their driver was warned that he would be shot if he refused to obey the soldiers’ orders.
With their visas rescinded, they were taken to the airport where they left on the first available plane.
A Sri Lankan military website accuses the C4 team of fabricating their report about sexual abuse, corpses left for days and children crushed in the rush for food. The government claims Paton Walsh admitted committing a crime.
“That is nonsense,” Paton Walsh writes. Du says C4 confirmed their interviews with two independent sources and offered the government opportunities to respond.
Sri Lanka is deteriorating into a dangerous and intolerant place for journalists. Several domestic reporters have been assassinated.
“Sri Lanka’s fast declining international reputation has taken another hit with its mistreatment of the C4 journalists,” said Jonathan Watts, FCCC president. “Our club firmly supports respected members who should not have been expelled for doing their job.”