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Media watchdog asks Commonwealth to ensure access in Lanka

Press Trust of India  |  New York 

A New York-based body that promotes press freedom has expressed its concern over media access during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Colombo in November.

Executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists , Joel Simon, has written to Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, saying that Colombo has indicated that the Sri Lankan government intends to enforce stringent background checks on any foreign journalists covering the meeting.

Simon refereed to a document, recently released by the Sri Lankan government that said the authorities reserve the right to "exclude any person ... And impose additional conditions of entry to ... Regardless of whether or not that person is accredited."

Journalists will be issued accreditation by a task force, which is a division of the Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs. The ministry has stated that credentials may be "withdrawn, suspended, or deactivated for any reason at any time."

Prominent Commonwealth nations like Canada and Australia have objected to hold the summit in Colombo due to the countries human rights record, but the 54-nation grouping has decided to go ahead with its plans.

"While we understand the value of engagement, if the Commonwealth cannot assert its own authority in asking for full media access to such international event, the future for positive engagement looks bleak. We ask you to ensure that the Sri Lankan government, which is widely known for its aggressive anti-press stance, does not prohibit access to foreign and local journalists who seek to cover the events surrounding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting," Simon said.

First Published: Thu, July 11 2013. 08:15 IST