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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 15:26 GMT
Sri Lanka 'drops war censorship'
Sri Lankan troops
Troops and rebels have clashed regularly for months
Sri Lanka's government says it is lifting measures to restrict reporting of the island's civil war, just hours after news of the censorship emerged.

The cabinet decided to withdraw the law because of the improved behaviour of the media, a government spokesman said.

He said the measures were imposed after inaccurate reporting of rebel attacks by some independent radio stations.

Fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels seeking autonomy in the north and east has worsened in recent months.

The government's actions come after a Tamil Tiger attack on an Air Force base last week which left 14 security forces personnel dead and destroyed eight aircraft.

Jail terms

The emergency reporting measures were introduced on Monday in a public security ordinance, which the BBC and other media organisations saw only on Wednesday.

The media have been behaving with more responsibility
Government spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle

It is still not fully clear what persuaded the government to performed its apparent about-turn.

Government spokesman Lakshman Hulugalle told the BBC the regulations were drawn up on Monday in response to a report last week by a radio station of a suspected attack by Tamil Tiger rebels on a village in the far south.

The government said it was false and had created panic and withdrew the company's licences.

But Mr Hulugalle said monitoring of the media since had shown that reporters were behaving with more responsibility.

He said the cabinet had unanimously approved withdrawing the regulations and the decision would be made law within hours.

The measures, which remain in force until then, say it will be illegal to report material "which pertains to any proposed operations or military activity" by the security forces.

Details of "the proposed acquisition of arms, ammunition or other equipment, including aircraft or naval vessels by the armed forces or the police" were also not to be reported.

Those convicted of breaching the order faced being imprisoned for as long as five years and fined up to 5,000 rupees ($45).


Similar reporting restrictions were in place for three years up to May 2001.

In February 2002, the government and the Tamil Tigers agreed a ceasefire and held a number of rounds of peace talks.

The peace process broke down after the election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in late 2005.

Clashes have intensified since then and the truce has long been dead in all but name.

Observers say the two sides now seem to be gearing up for a major confrontation in the north of the country.

Despite losing territory in the east earlier this year, the rebels still control a vast swathe of land in the north.

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