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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March 2008, 11:30 GMT
Sri Lanka criticised over TV boss
Sri Lankan journalists with injured colleague in hospital
Several staff at the television station have been attacked recently
Media rights activists in Sri Lanka have criticised the appointment of a retired army officer to a senior post in the state-run television station.

Former army major general Sunil Silva has been made deputy director general of Rupavahini, the most widely watched TV station in the country.

The Free Media Movement said the move would give the government more control over the station during a crisis.

The government rejected the charge, saying it would strengthen the station.

The move comes days after employees of the station protested over a series of assaults on five of their colleagues.

Sunanda Deshapriya of The Free Media Movement told the BBC that Maj Gen Silva's appointment was "part of the general militarisation of the country".

"This is unprecedented," he said. "No retired military person has been appointed for the top post in the last 20 years."

Sri Lankan Media Minister Anurapriyadarshana Yapa dismissed the criticism as "propaganda".

He said Mr Silva "has not been given any mandate to run the station".

"He has been appointed only to help the administration."

Rising violence

Tensions between the government and the state-run TV station peaked last December when Labour Minister Mervyn Silva was briefly held in a locked office by Rupavahini journalists.

Rupavahini logo
Rupavahini is the most widely watched TV station in Sri Lanka

He had visited the station to complain about its coverage and was locked in by the reporters after one of his aides allegedly assaulted a news director.

The minister was eventually freed when commandos raided the building.

International media rights activists say Sri Lanka is becoming one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists because of what they say is a worsening climate of violence and unofficial censorship.

The government officially withdrew from a ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels earlier this year, saying the rebels had used the truce to re-arm.

Since then, fighting has intensified on the frontlines that surround Tiger-held territory in the north.

More than 70,000 people have died since the ethnic Tamil rebels took up arms against the government in 1983, complaining they had been marginalised by the island's Sinhala majority.



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